About two dozen protesters temporarily seized control of the offices of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) on Aug. 31, protesting the lack of public housing in the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The demonstration was led by public housing advocate groups and local residents, and spurred National Guard soldiers and local police to seal off neighboring streets while negotiating with the protesters.

The protesters demanded to speak with HANO Chairman Donald Babers, who was away from the office traveling on business, according to Adonis Exposé, HANO’s director of communications. After about two and a half hours, the protesters walked out peacefully, chanting “no justice, no peace.”

HANO announced in June 2006 that it would demolish four of the city’s largest public housing developments— St. Bernard, Lafitte, C.J. Peete, and the B.W. Cooper—and replace them with mixed-income neighborhoods. HANO is currently under the control of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The redevelopment plans prompted an ongoing civil rights lawsuit led by the Louisiana Justice Institute on behalf of HANO residents. The redevelopment plans are on hold until at least Nov. 26, when the lawsuit goes to trial.

Prior to the hurricane, about 5,100 families lived in public housing in New Orleans; today, the number of occupied units is 1,561 as of Aug. 8, according to HANO. The protesters wanted the old complexes rehabilitated and reopened as they were before Hurricane Katrina, instead of as communities that mix market-rate and workforce housing with affordable housing. Redevelopment plans at C.J. Peete, for instance, call for a total of 410 units, with some of those market-rate units, compared to the 723 affordable housing units the development had before the hurricane.

The protests coincided with the two-year anniversary of the hurricane’s landfall in New Orleans. Local advocacy groups like Common Ground Collective, the Louisiana Justice Institute, and People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition held an “International Tribunal” from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2, which put government officials on mock trial to mark the anniversary.

No Smoking Allowed

GUARDIAN MANAGEMENT, LLC, a Portland, Ore.-based real estate investment and management firm, has adopted a no-smoking policy at about 8,000 conventional and affordable housing units across the West. The majority of the units, 6,500, are in Oregon. The new policy applies to new residents, starting Sept. 1.

Existing residents will be exempt until Jan. 1, 2008, when all apartments at the properties will become smoke-free. The policy prohibits smoking inside apartments and common areas as well as within 25 feet of any building on the properties.

“We have successfully implemented no-smoking policies in several of our new properties, and we have found that residents appreciate the amenity,” said Tom Brenneke, owner and president of Guardian Management. “In addition to the health benefits of a smoke-free environment, we can provide residents with cleaner, better-maintained units, and a reduced fire risk.”

A 2006 survey commissioned by the American Lung Association of Oregon, the Multnomah County Health Department in Oregon, the Clark County Health Department in Washington, and partner agencies found that a majority of renters prefer nonsmoking dwellings, and more than half would be willing to pay more in rent to live in a smoke-free environment.

Housing’s Link to Health and Education

AFFORDABLE HOUSING means more than shelter. It serves a vital role in health and educational achievement, according to the first-ever comprehensive look at related research issued by Enterprise Community Partners and the Center for Housing Policy.

“It is impressive just how many different ways that housing is essential to these other disciplines,” said Jeffrey Lubell, executive director of the Center for Housing Policy.

The research shows how affordable housing can help address the nation’s health and educational challenges, he said.

For example, studies have found that children in low-income families that do not receive housing subsidies are more likely to suffer from iron deficiencies, malnutrition, and underdevelopment than children in families that receive housing assistance.

Research also shows that housing stability is instrumental in helping children perform better in school. One study found that children in families that receive Sec. 8 housing vouchers live in better neighborhoods and are less likely to move frequently and to miss school.

Inclusionary Zoning Catches On in California

MORE THAN 80,000 Californians live in housing produced through inclusionary housing programs, according to a report by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, which shows that 170 jurisdictions in California—32 percent of cities and counties—have inclusionary zoning policies. In 2003, just 107 jurisdictions reported such policies.

The California Coalition for Rural Housing, the Sacramento Housing Alliance, and the San Diego Housing Federation co-authored Affordable By Choice: Trends in California Inclusionary Housing Programs.

The report examines the characteristics of eight top-producing cities with inclusionary housing.

Ultimately, the report makes five recommendations, including that all cities and counties adopt a mandatory inclusionary housing policy. It also recommends that cities and counties offer strong incentives and flexibility so the requirements are feasible to developers.

AHF Column Recognized with Gold Award

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE won a Gold Award in the editorial category in the West Region Awards of Excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

Editor-in- Chief Andre Shashaty was recognized for his “Grapevine” columns, “Vote Early, Vote Housing” and “Alphonso for Albania,” which appeared respectively in October and December 2006.