Report: New Orleans Housing Vouchers Concentrating Poverty

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Housing advocates are warning that many poor families relying on government housing vouchers are ending up in pockets of poverty and crime far from the city center — evidence that a decision to demolish large public housing complexes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina hasn't worked.

         The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, a housing advocacy group, released a report on Thursday that said all-too-often households receiving housing vouchers are concentrated in "a small number of census tracts" far from jobs, services and good public transportation.

         The center urged the Housing Authority of New Orleans to look at methods to help families using housing vouchers to move into low-poverty neighborhoods.

         The study said there are about 18,000 voucher households in New Orleans, making up about a quarter of renters, and that about 25 percent of those households have ended up in a handful of census tracts in eastern New Orleans and across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter in Algiers. Those neighborhoods are also overwhelmingly black and marked by low income, the report said.

         "Voucher families are disproportionately stuck in farther flung, segregated, high-poverty neighborhoods with little access to public transit, jobs, or the kinds of opportunity that help families break the cycle of poverty," the report said.

         The report was based on an analysis of housing vouchers by Tulane University researchers released last year that looked at 2010 data and on 2013 data that showed little had changed, said Cashauna Hill, the center's executive director.

         After Katrina struck in August 2005, public housing was demolished as a way to break up the same kind of concentrations of poverty highlighted in the new report.

         But Hill said the demolition of public housing and proliferation of housing vouchers has not achieved what housing officials had promised.

         "Rather than provide the chance for families to escape the cycle of poverty, they are further entrenched in the cycle of poverty," Hill said.

         The report also examined where shootings took place in New Orleans between 2011 and 2015 and where voucher families live. The report found that 12 neighborhoods with 10 or more shootings a year were home to roughly 55 percent of children in the voucher program. Neighborhoods with no shootings a year were home to less than 2 percent of children in the voucher program, the report found.

         The report also found that white households on vouchers were more than twice as likely to live in low-poverty areas compared to black households. The report found that nationally about 19 percent of voucher households live in low-poverty neighborhoods while in New Orleans only 9 percent of voucher households live in such neighborhoods.

         The report said the housing authority could switch the way it calculates rent subsidies to help families leave low-income neighborhoods, get more landlords involved in renting to voucher households and help people receiving vouchers look for places in more affluent neighborhoods.

         The authority did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

         Nationwide the housing voucher program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by local public housing agencies. The vouchers help poor people, the disabled and the elderly pay for housing in the private market.

         – by AP Reporter Cain Burdeau



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