As the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) leaders gathered to provide a snapshot of the long-term recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast.
“Over the last decade, the road to recovery has been long and it’s been challenging, but I think you would agree with me that it’s also shown that while that storm was tough, the spirit of the people of the Gulf Coast has been even tougher,” said Secretary Julián Castro during the media briefing Tuesday.
The devastating hurricane hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, with the winds, storm surge, and subsequent flooding displacing more than 1 million people from their homes, taking the lives of more than 1,800 individuals, damaging more than 1 million homes, and causing an estimated $135 billion in damages.
HUD played a key role in on the recovery and rebuilding process along the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, where 80% of the city was under floodwaters. It invested $20 billion through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program for new housing and new infrastructure as well as in businesses to bolster the Gulf Coast region’s economy.
The more than $14 billion in HUD recovery funds supported state housing programs, with 158,000 households receiving direct compensation, almost 3,000 families getting help to purchase homes, 12,660 rehabbed or reconstructed housing units, more than 700 newly constructed housing units, and 35,597 affordable rental units.
According to HUD, 98% of the HUD-assisted apartment buildings in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi have been restored. The most controversial public housing redevelopment post-Katrina was New Orleans’ notorious “Big Four,” which housed 3,000 families at the time of the storm.
With a total pubic investment of $585 million, the former C.J. Peete, B.W. Cooper, Lafitte, and St. Bernard were redeveloped into mixed-income communities.
“HUD was also central to the redevelopment of damaged public housing, especially the Big Four. Today, four new attractive mixed-income developments are a vital part of life in New Orleans,” said Castro. “The Housing Authority of New Orleans, which once was beset by mismanagement and under receivership, has made an impressive turnaround and returned to local control in 2013.”
Earl Randall III, New Orleans field office director for HUD, agreed.
“The St. Bernard development was the largest in the city of New Orleans, but it also was one of the most dangerous,” Randall said, adding that the number of attempted felonies dropped exponentially one year after the redevelopment of St. Bernard into Columbia Parc at the Bayou District. “We are elevating the quality of life for families living in public housing. It went from one of the most notorious neighborhoods in New Orleans to one of the most desirable neighborhoods."
CDBG-DR funds also helped to replace and improve streets, utilities, schools, hospitals, parks, and dams as well as assisted businesses responsible for keeping and creating jobs.
There still is work to be finished in the recovery process. “As long as there are people who want to come home and communities that need to be rebuilt, our job is not done,” Castro said.