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  • Thursday, August 24, 2006


    Intimations of New Orleans Today

    I've just gotten back from a six day trip to New Orleans, my first since hurricanes Katrina and Rita smashed through there almost a year ago. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to write up about it but as a teaser I'm including a photo as a sample of what is to come.

    The house you see here is in the Broadmoor area of NOLA, roughly centered around Fountainbleau Dr. and Nashville. Note the concrete stilts supporting the house. Those are new. The house has been raised 9 1/2 feet from its original (and flooded) level. It is my understanding that this modification is in accord with the FEMA guidelines for rebuilding and renovating in NOLA. The cost to raise a house like this one? Nearly $50K on top of other repairs. To the far right, behind the electrical box, you can see a mailbox on the stair railing leading up to one of the ubiquitous FEMA trailers. You often find these trailers next to houses being renovated.

    However a problem with rebuilding in NOLA is that there are few official guidelines yet. Or, rather, there are several different standards that are not consistent with each other. The city government of NOLA has one standard, FEMA has another, the state government of Louisiana has yet another, and various foundations/organizations donating money have their own. So the homeowner's problem is: Do you rebuild now or wait indefinitely for an "official" decree? And no one knows when these details will be ironed out. There are some programs for distributing aid money to help homeowners rebuild that haven't even started interviewing people to qualify for the grants. Those programs may not actually begin distributing any money until March of 2007. The kicker: to qualify for some of these funds you have to rebuild to their standards. So if you go ahead and repair things now but not to the right standard (still to be decided), you're out of luck. And people with unliveable houses are unlikely to wait for such an indefinite future. They need a place to live ASAP. Living in a trailer or another city gets old fast.

    These are just some of the things I learned in NOLA. I'm going to write up a day-by-day diary of the trip with side explorations of some issues I think are important.

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