10 Years After Katrina: Housing Washed Away

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and a levee-breaching flood devastated New Orleans, rents have risen dramatically and the city has lost more than half its public housing. 

Three-eighths of tenants in the city now spend more than half their income on rent, up from about one-fourth before the flood, according to Census Bureau figures analyzed by the Data Center, a local research group. The median rent has risen from $578 to $767 for a one-bedroom apartment and $676 to $950 for a two-bedroom, Loyola University law professor Bill Quigley wrote on Portside in July.

“Before Katrina it was possible for people to find housing they could afford, and that’s just become virtually impossible,” Kate Scott of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center told the Gambit alternative weekly in March.

The city has also eliminated much of its public housing. It converted its four largest projects— C.J. Peete, St. Bernard, Lafitte, and B.W. Cooper—into mixed-income developments. The number of occupied public-housing apartments has been reduced from more than 5,100 to slightly more than 1,900. More than 5,000 public-housing residents were displaced by the storm, and less than half of them have been able to return.

The result: The city’s population has fallen by 71,000 people, to 384,000 in 2014. The number of Afro-American residents, who once made up two-thirds of the city’s people, has plummeted by about 100,000.