New Orleans was one of the most musical cities in the world until Hurricane Katrina devastated the community and dispersed its residents across the country.

There’s a plan, however, to bring back some of the musicians who had to flee the Crescent City.

Habitat for Humanity along with musical artists Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis are behind Musicians’ Village, one of the more interesting housing projects planned for the area.

The village will consist of 81 Habitat-constructed homes for displaced musicians. Its centerpiece will be the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music. In January, The New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity acquired eight acres of land in the upper Ninth Ward for the village.

Seed money for the village is provided by proceeds from the From the Big Apple to the Big Easy benefit concerts held in New York City last year.

More than 25 million seek food assistance

America’s Second Harvest – The Nation’s Food Bank Network reported that more than 25 million Americans, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors, receive emergency food assistance from the organization each year. That’s an 8% increase since 2001

Many of the 52,000 clients interviewed for a study, one of the largest of its kind, revealed having to make difficult choices between food and other necessities. More than 40% of the clients report having to choose between paying for utilities or heating fuel and food, and 35% had to choose between paying for rent and food.

America’s Second Harvest is the largest charitable hunger-relief organization in the country with more than 200 food banks and food-rescue programs serving all 50 states. For more information, visit

Second Harvest study

America’s Second Harvest clients were asked whether their families had to choose between food and other necessities in a recent 12-month period

  • Paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuels: 41.3%
  • Paying for food and paying for rent or mortgage: 34.9%
  • Paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care: 31.5%

Report studies distressed public housing for seniors

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently identified 3,537 public housing developments primarily occupied by elderly residents and persons with disabilities.

Data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other sources indicated that 76, or 2%, of these developments were potentially severely distressed. GAO then surveyed the public housing agencies responsible for these properties.

The GAO found that:

  • Eleven developments had signs of severe physical distress.
  • Another 12 had signs of severe social distress, which included a lack of appropriate supportive services such as transportation and assistance with meals.
  • Another five developments had characteristics of both severe physical and social distress.

Many of those surveyed reported that numerous factors adversely affected the quality of life of the residents. The factors cited most frequently were aging buildings and systems, lack of accessibility for persons with disabilities, small apartment sizes, mixing of elderly and non-elderly residents, inadequate supportive services, and crime.
Strategies to reduce physical distress include capital improvements such as renovating buildings and systems. Strategies to reduce social distress include designating developments as “elderly only” and working with organizations to provide supportive services.

The report Distressed Conditions in Development sfor the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities and Strategies Used for Improvements can be found at


As executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), Carl Greene is always looking for new ideas in different places. For example, during a free moment at the National Leased Housing Association meeting in Indian Wells, Calif., Greene finished a book.

Q So, what was the book?

AFreedom and Accountability at Work. [The authors are Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block.] 

Q How does that apply to what you do at PHA?

A Take the Sec. 8 voucher program: If a hypothetical tenant comes into your office with a problem, the right solution could be one of a number of things. A PHA manager has to choose the right solution, and the answer won’t be the same for every tenant.

Q What will be the biggest challenge for PHA this year?

A The biggest challenge is to continue the process of innovation. We have repositioned a lot of our assets over the past several years, and invested heavily in technology to drive down our costs. The challenge is building on that momentum even as funding at the federal level declines.

Q How do you plan to overcome that challenge?

A By becoming leaner still and making ourselves an attractive investment for our public and private partners who want to see the results in the community. Private investment has become increasingly critical to our ability to deliver our product and services, so we must show investors continued excellence. 

Q What’s an innovative move you have made at one of your developments? 

A An example of a recent innovation is at a property we are rebuilding called Germantown House. The project began as a typical public housing modernization. Half way through the construction process, we received an allocation of tax credits from the state, meaning $11 million in private equity. We also received a commitment from the state to operate a PACE (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly)-style senior medical program there with a private partner called NewCourtland. So we ended up with a new facility that has a condo ownership structure at the senior medical facility and a separate condo ownership structure with respect to the residential facility. With this kind of ownership, this project is costing us slightly more than half of what we planned.