Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina and its subsequent flooding devastated the Gulf Coast.
More than 1 million housing units in the Gulf Coast region were damaged when the hurricane struck in August 2005. About half of the damaged units were located in Louisiana, with 70% of all occupied units in New Orleans suffering damage.
The catastrophic storm also contributed to more than 1,800 deaths, the displacement of more than 1 million people, and $135 billion in total damages.
Over the past decade since the storm, significant revitalization has taken place in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, providing needed mixed-income housing for the region.
For the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Affordable Housing Finance is highlighting 10 developments, including the redevelopment of the “Big Four” public housing projects in New Orleans, that have left their marks on the revitalization of the Gulf Coast.
One of the biggest success stories has been the efforts to reduce New Orleans’ homeless numbers, which swelled to more than 11,500 in the years after Katrina because of the lack of housing stock and jobs.
As of January 2014, the number of people experiencing homelessness on any given night had decreased to under 2,000 individuals, slightly lower than pre-Katrina. And in January 2015, New Orleans announced that the city had ended veterans homelessness.
One organization that has played a critical role in these efforts is nonprofit UNITY of Greater New Orleans, a consortium of over 60 agencies providing housing and services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
After Hurricane Katrina, UNITY began its permanent supportive housing initiative to house some of the city’s most fragile homeless people. The nonprofit partnered with Community Solutions, an organization launched and led by industry veteran Rosanne Haggerty to help communities solve the problems that create and sustain homelessness, and local developer HRI Properties.
“We’ve been really pleased with what we have been able to accomplish,” says Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY. “With our permanent supportive housing initiative and tenant-based work, we have been able to make a big dent. We are within striking distance to end chronic homelessness and family homelessness.”
The partnership focused on three key elements: the blending of formerly homeless with others who had never experienced homelessness, which was based on the model Common Ground, the nonprofit organization that Haggerty founded, uses in its New York City supportive housing; the commitment to high-quality materials and design; and an emphasis on saving historic buildings.
Their first development, the Rosa F. Keller Building on Tulane Avenue in the Mid-City neighborhood, was completed in April 2012 and became the city’s first mixed-income permanent supportive housing apartment project.
The $16.8 million redevelopment, which was named after civil rights activist Rosa Freeman Keller, includes 60 units—30 for low-wage households and 30 for chronically homeless—a case management team, a landscaped courtyard, and a fitness room. It also is conveniently located across from the new Veterans Affairs Medical Center and University Medical Center.
“It’s an outstanding development that has made a huge impact on the community,” says David Abbenante, president of HRI subsidiary HRI Management. “It’s a model for the rest of the country.”
The team also was responsible for the Dr. Everett and Melva Williams Building in Central City, completed in 2013, which includes 21 units for chronically homeless individuals and 21 units for low-income households.
A third project by UNITY, the 109-unit Sacred Heart Apartments, is still under construction. However, it has played a big role in helping the city end veterans homelessness. When the first building was completed, it received a temporary certificate of occupancy in December 2014 and immediately moved in 11 veterans. As of mid-July, 50 veterans had moved into the development.
Here’s a look at nine other developments that have had an impact on the region.