Blighted Homes Challenge New Orleans Neighborhoods

By Wadner Pierre

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of houses remain uninhabited. Citizens ask for more effort to reduce blight in their neighborhoods.

In October 2010, the mayor of New Orleans Mitch Laundrieu launched his “Blight Strategy” plan to reduce blight in the city of New Orleans to 10, 000 addresses over the course of  three years.

According to the 2011 Blight Strategy report, there were 43, 755 blighted addresses in the city. Under the mayor’s plan,: 2, 280 units have already been demolished, 28, 042 units were inspected, 15,413 inquired, 6,740 examined,10, 086 brought into compliance and 1, 750 lots were cleared.
Chase Temonia who was born in the Gentilly is working at Rock’s Safe and Lock, a family-owned business, said blighted houses affect his business, particularly at night.

He said his business and another neighbor already petitioned to get the blighted houses next his business to be demolished.

“They definitely need to be torn down… we had a person moving in backs…back behind us, we actually signed a petition… I think within a couple months they should have that house torn down,” Temonia said.

Abandoned houses next to Temonia’s business are amongst those of the several hundreds of houses in the Gentilly area that need to be fixed or torn down in order to bring down the number of blighted houses in this area.

Andre Davis, a native  San Diego , CA moved to New Orleans a year ago to attend a graduate program in International Urban Development  at one of  the universities in the New Orleans area.

Davis who is now working in the Gentilly  area for an organization that couples with the local government to redevelop blighted homes and sell them at an affordable price. He assessed that blight in any community is unsuitable environment for people to live.

“If you live in any community where you have just an area of blight in general, it just makes [the] living condition and everything tougher… It just doesn’t, you know, doesn’t breathe a healthy environment for people to live in,” Davis said.

The director of operations of New Orleans Mission, James Gonzalez, who works with the homeless community, said blight in the city creates a comfortable environment for the homeless people.
“New Orleans has 15, 000 abandoned buildings within the city limits. That type of environment breathes homeless people,” Gonzalez said.

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According to the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority website, people who want to buy empty lots next to their homes may entitle to receive up to $ 10, 00 through The Lot Next Door Program for purchasing a lot next to their houses to beautify it with “through ornamental, edible gardens and other landscaping efforts.”
The 2005 flood put almost 80 percent of the city under water, since blight has remained a serious challenge for the local government and for the neighborhoods in New Orleans.
Reducing blight in New Orleans is one of the top priorities of the Landrieu’s administration. The candidate promised in his campaign to battle blight if he got elected.

“As you well know, blight is a severe problem in our community but with stricter enforcement of laws, people are finally taking notice after years of neglect,” Mayor Laudrieu wrote this statement for the first annual report of “Blight Strategy.”

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