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SUPA research reveals housing preference for New Orleans public housing residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina

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Monday, March 10, 2008

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Media Contact: Sue Stevens

ARLINGTON - University of Texas at Arlington School of Urban and Public Affairs (SUPA) Dean Richard Cole and Visiting Professor Robert Whelan, who formerly taught at the University of New Orleans, recently presented the findings of a study on New Orleans public housing residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The study revealed that a significant majority do not want to return to public housing in New Orleans. Cole said the representative unbiased sampling of more than 2,100 current and former public housing residents found that while 71.6 percent want to return to New Orleans, only 35 percent preferred to return to public housing in New Orleans.

The findings of the SUPA resident survey include:

* 35 percent of households want to return to their former units or other available public housing units in the City of New Orleans;

* Only 20.3 percent of all respondents want to return to the public housing unit they occupied prior to Hurricane Katrina;

* 36.6 percent of public housing households want to return to New Orleans, but want a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) to rent a home rather than live in public housing;

* 21.4 percent prefer to remain in the community where they relocated, continuing to live in public housing or private rental housing supported by a Housing Choice Voucher; and

* 6.9 percent did not express a preference.

Last July, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) contracted with SUPA to conduct a survey of the approximately 5,100 families who resided in New Orleans public housing prior to Hurricane Katrina. SUPA hired Survey Communications, Inc. (S.C.I. Research) of Baton Rouge, a full-service, national marketing research firm, to conduct the telephone survey of all the families. S.C.I. Research was able to contact 2,553 former residents. Ultimately, 41 percent of HANO residents (2,109) agreed to participate in the survey.

When comparing characteristics of those surveyed with all 5,100 displaced public housing families, the sample is found to be highly representative. Half of the respondents have already moved back to New Orleans. Currently, there are 1,824 families living in a combination of rehabilitated and newly-constructed public housing units in New Orleans. There are another 253 units available for lease and another 790 units under repair. Former residents who are not living in public housing units are receiving housing assistance under the Disaster Voucher Program either in New Orleans or in another city. In addition to gauging the housing preferences of current and former HANO residents, the survey sought to explore when residents intend to return to New Orleans.

Nearly 80 percent expressed a desire to return to New Orleans within six months. When asked what barriers, if any, might delay their return, many families indicated they needed transportation and moving assistance. HANO intends to contact all families who responded to the survey and who expressed a preference to return to New Orleans to help facilitate their move.

In June 2006, HUD and HANO proposed to redevelop the four public housing communities (St. Bernard, Lafitte, C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper) that were most severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Last December, the New Orleans City Council unanimously approved HANO's request to demolish the decades-old public housing developments and rebuild them as mixed-income communities. The survey results announced today reinforce HANO's plans to redevelop a sufficient number of public housing units to meet the expressed demand of former residents. HANO intends to redevelop more than 3,200 public housing units and another 1,765 affordable housing units that would service families at or below 80 percent of the area median income. The plan also includes another 1,800 single family homes that would be market rate and affordable.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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