Progress has been made in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast in the five years since Hurricane Katrina. Yet the statistics show there is so much more work to be done.
The needs and hardships of this region have become even more apparent in the past several months as the media have descended on the Gulf Coast to cover the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in late April.
Back in the spotlight with another disaster, you hear the stories from residents and businesses of how the spill is negatively affecting the economy, jobs, and tourism. Watching the constant oil spill coverage on CNN and other news outlets, the heart-wrenching images of the hurricane aftermath come rushing back.
In this issue of AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE, we take a closer look at the accomplishments as well as the challenges over the past five years and the affordable housing needs that remain in the Gulf Coast. (See cover story on page 26.)
More than 1 million housing units were damaged by the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf Coast. And 70 percent of all occupied units in New Orleans suffered damage, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. In fact, 20,019 households in New Orleans still lack affordable housing or subsidies, the center estimates.
To top that off, the current homeless population today in New Orleans is estimated to be 11,500, which is almost twice what it was pre-Katrina.
Here's another number to think about: When the Housing Authority of New Orleans opened its tenant voucher waiting list last year for the first time after Katrina, more than 28,000 eligible households applied for 4,000 available vouchers.
It's not all doom and gloom for the region. As of July, 246 affordable housing developments with nearly 20,000 units have been placed in service in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and Texas because of the Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone low-income housing tax credit program that was created after the destructive 2005 hurricane season. However, 77 developments with another 6,000 housing units have not been completed and are in jeopardy of losing their credits as the program's placed-in-service deadline nears.
On another positive note, to meet the region's housing needs, partnerships have been formed, new companies have been created, developers from around the nation have entered the mix, and hometown developers have continued their work to create new low-income housing, permanent supportive housing, and mixed-use communities.
I commend these people, the region's housing finance agencies and local officials, and the financial providers for stepping up to rebuild the housing and give the residents a place where they can also rebuild their lives. And I hope they continue to rally to get the GO Zone tax credit extended and overcome the other challenges they face to get the region's housing stock back to the level where it needs to be.