Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Can You Go Home Again?

The author makes a key point about the future of New Orleans:

Suppose, with heroic effort, an evacuee does come back to his or her partially-ruined house, does find a new job - no thanks to the government - and starts, as best he or she can, to put a life back together. Even this hard-working evacuee may see the home taken literally out from under his or her feet - and legally so.

Based on the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year in Kelo, New Orleans private homes can now be officially designated as blighted, torn down, and turned over to private developers - who seek to replace them with buildings in which the old residents cannot afford to live, or malls in which they cannot afford to shop.

The Supreme Court just this summer gave the thumbs up to eminent domain, the policy of governments seizing private property for "public benefit" that often amounts to nothing more than building a shopping mall and/or luxury housing for wealthy people.

Given that New Orleans is a coastal city with considerable waterfront property, better-constructed defenses against the water would make it an ideal location for the kind of high-end building that the city has seen little of outside of the famous Garden District. And the pressures to follow such a path will be enormous for a city and state desperate to recover all of that tax revenue lost to the storm and its aftermath.

All of which means the poor, black population of the 9th Ward and other such neighborhoods may find that (assuming they wish to return) there will be nothing affordable for them to return to when the time comes.


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