Building homes and financial independence
After Katrina, many low- to moderate-income families struggled to rebuild or find affordable housing. Families and individuals currently living in housing developed by Community Revitalization Fund grantees are grateful to have found stable housing – for some, it has made all the difference.
The Project Home Again family has done great things… I can only speak for myself personally, from being a survivor of domestic violence and having two children, being stuck in a room in my mom’s house for seven years, and finally having my own home again. It was life changing, and for that I will always remember each and every one of them for what they did for me.
– Samantha Brown (not her real name), whose Gentilly home was destroyed by the post-Katrina flooding
When Jimmy Robb saw nice homes sprouting up in the Central City neighborhood in which he grew up, he called Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative – the non-profit developer and Community Revitalization Fund grantee – to ask how he could get one for his family. Three years later, Jimmy Robb and Tamika Sullivan married and moved into their new home with their three sons. He says home ownership “is everything.”
Before Katrina, Dianne Alfred lived in one of the “Big Four” public housing complexes — Lafitte — with her two young children. After years of bouncing from one place to another, Ms. Alfred and her children returned to live in a three-bedroom apartment at the newly rebuilt and renamed Faubourg-Lafitte. Two Community Revitalization Fund grantees — Providence Community Housing and Enterprise Community Partners — were partners in the redevelopment of this site. Ms. Alfred says she is “blessed” to have her apartment.
When Katrina hit, Edith Reaves was living in an apartment complex in New Orleans East owned by Volunteers of America (VOA). In the years following the storm, VOA sent Mrs. Reaves letters asking her to return to an apartment complex their local subsidiary – Renaissance Neighborhood Development Corporation (RNDC) – was building in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans. RNDC used grant support from the Community Revitalization Fund to build the Terraces on Tulane. Now 93, Mrs. Reaves says living there “meant that I could be independent.”
Nearly all of the Community Revitalization Fund grantees engaged in housing production produced mixed-income housing and/or shared the Fund’s goal of creating equitable, sustainable communities. But given the entrenched racial and class inequality in New Orleans, this is no easy task. Redeveloped public housing has not come close to replacing the units lost by the post-Katrina demolition. Residential segregation remains high in New Orleans, and the rate of poverty has risen in many neighborhoods, even as the rate of home-ownership has increased.
We wanted to make sure that [housing] was not just transformative in the physical environment, but that it transformed people’s lives.
– Katherine Medina, Homeownership Services Manager, Harmony Neighborhood Development
Nearly all of the housing developers supported by the Community Revitalization Fund engage in and advocate for green-building practices. The norm is sustainable, LEED-certified construction. The Community Revitalization Fund supported not only developers that use energy-efficient approaches, but also other nonprofits, like Global Green, that provide technical assistance and homeowner counseling.
You can cut utility bills, and we show our homeowners how to do this by sealing in air, glazing windows, fixing siding… it’s real simple things… for us it’s all about sustainability.
– Jon Skvarka, Executive Director, Rebuilding Together
Some Community Revitalization Fund grantees purposefully worked to incorporate local residents into their rebuilding efforts. The quotations below illustrate how three grantees carried out – or were built by – community engagement.
[Jericho’s approach] was to build these physical structures that are homes, but [also] to put resources… into organizing people where those houses are.
– Brad Powers, former Executive Director, Jericho Road Episcopal Housing Initiative
I think that’s how we create that civic discourse and make sure people, at least the leaders of Rebuilding Together, are all at the table, all volunteer leaders are talking about where we want to head with the city.
– John Skvarka, Executive Director, Rebuilding Together
The resources were the people. There was no bucket of cash we could tap… We were told our school wasn’t going to come back, our library… And the community said, ‘No.’ We began to organize.
– LaToya Cantrell, Former President, Broadmoor Improvement Association
(Currently: Councilmember, City of New Orleans)