Blanco: HUD should reopen New Orleans public housing projects scheduled for demolition

Monday, February 12th 2007, 8:09 pm
By: News On 6

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Monday she wants to temporarily reopen the New Orleans public housing projects that have been closed since Hurricane Katrina, despite federal plans to demolish them.

Hundreds of people protested the demolitions in January. Last week, a federal judge dismissed a claim that the plans discriminated against the projects' black residents, a move that housing authorities said cleared the way to raze the buildings.

Blanco said the projects that can be repaired should be reopened to families who were driven out by Katrina floodwaters _ at least until the federal government gets closer to its goal of replacing them with new structures. The projects could help relieve the housing problem in the city and allow displaced residents to return home, she said.

``People are clamoring to get home,'' Blanco said.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which controls the projects, plans to tear them down and replace them with ``mixed income'' housing developments. ``That's still the plan,'' spokeswoman Donna White said.

But Blanco said she could get support from Congress, where she met last week with Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House committee that oversees HUD.

Frank is interested in opening up at least some of the apartments, his spokesman Steven Adamske said.

``The general emphasis is, if there are habitable places that can provide housing for people, then we should work on that,'' Adamske said.

According to the Housing Authority of New Orleans, 5,146 public housing units in the city were occupied before the storm and about 1,200 are today. No date has been set for the demolitions.