City receives $30.5 million HUD grant to redevelop Iberville

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The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) has received a $30.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to redevelop the Iberville/Treme area, including a full-scale renovation of the Iberville Housing Development, the public housing complex built in the early 1940s between Treme and the French Quarter.

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HUD Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez—joined by Mayor Mitch Landrieu; David Gilmore, administrative receiver for HANO, and City Councilwoman Kristin Palmer, who represents Iberville—made the announcement this morning at a presentation in the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a block away from what a HUD press release calls the "distressed housing" development. The site has not seen significant renovation since it was built in 1941; units still have asbestos and lead paint, according to HANO's December 2010 grant application:

Despite their proximity to the French Quarter, 52 percent of the residents of Iberville and Treme are living at or below the poverty line, according to a HANO press release.

"As difficult as this challenge has been [in Iberville and Treme], it's hardly unique," Henriquez said. Millions of Americans live in similar neighborhoods, she added, and HUD statistical analyses have shown that children who grow up in these neighborhoods are unlikely to overcome their parents' economic challenges as adults. "We can predict outcomes for children based solely on the zip codes where they live."

The New Orleans grant was one of five—Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle were the others—HUD has awarded as part of its new Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, a neighborhood transformation program described as a more comprehensive successor to HUD's HOPE VI program. The distinction between Choice and HOPE VI, Landrieu and Henriquez said, is that while the older program concentrated solely on housing stock improvement, Choice aims for a multidisciplinary approach: neighborhood improvement through new educational options (the Recovery School District has partnered with HANO on the project); job training programs; and transit improvements.

Demolitions planned for most of Iberville (after the jump):

This was something we wanted, said Rochelle Trotter [at podium], an Iberville resident who worked with city officials on the plan
  • "This was something we wanted," said Rochelle Trotter [at podium], an Iberville resident who worked with city officials on the plan

According to the Iberville construction plan, which Gilmore said will begin in the next few months, only 24—those lining Marais Street in the center of the development—of the existing 74 Iberville low-rises will be kept and renovated. Demolition work will start with the buildings that front on Basin Street. The 70 families currently occupying those units will be relocated to other, now vacant units in the development, said Gilmore. For renovations and demolitions further down the line, HANO will build temporary onsite housing for residents.

"We only want people to have to move once," Gilmore said. "Just move out and move right back in."

Iberville, designed as a "superblock" of 74 low-rise buildings, was comprised of 858 individual residence units when it was originally built, of which 821 remain today. Of those remaining units, however, only 441 are currently occupied, and those have seen few improvements since construction 70 years ago, according to HANO's grant application:

Although encapsulated, asbestos and lead-based paint remain in the residential units. Entry stairwells are not air conditioned, leading to peeling paint and plaster. HANO constantly monitors for environmental issues but has been sued for lead- based paint and mold at Iberville. The buildings have not recently been weatherproofed and termites and rodents have been reported, causing residents to express health concerns.

The new development on the Iberville site will consist of 913 total units, of which 304 will be public housing available to current residents. The remaining residences will be split between low-income and market rate housing. 1,518 new rental units will be built throughout the neighborhood bound by Broad Street, St. Bernard Avenue, Rampart Street and Tulane Avenue, of which 517 will be either Section 8 or public.

Gilmore said the project would not yield a net loss in city public housing.

"We will replace all 821 public housing units with 821 onsite and offsite public housing units," he said.

HANO worked with an elected six-person leadership team of Iberville residents, to develop the plan.

"This was something we wanted," said Rochelle Trotter, speaking on behalf of the Iberville Resident Working Team. "It was a lot of work, but we were at the table for it. We're still at the table because at the end of the day, we have to live there."

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