Everyone knows that the Road Home Program, though well intentioned, has been deeply flawed since its inception. In 2007, working with the National Fair Housing Alliance, my staff at the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Center and I set out to right at least one of the major program flaws.
The Road Home Program was designed to provide rebuilding grants to residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina based on the value of their homes, rather than the cost to repair the damage. This policy choice had the dramatic affect of impeding New Orleans' struggling recovery.
Because pre-storm home values were significantly lower in African-American neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods, homeowners in African-American neighborhoods consistently received far smaller Road Home grants than homes in white neighborhoods; and they were far more likely to have large gaps in the resources needed to rebuild.
This was true even when a home in a predominantly black neighborhood was essentially identical to a home in a predominantly white neighborhood and had identical storm damage. The end result is that communities like New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward are far from rebuilt.
Since day one, our request has been the same--that all homeowners receive rebuilding grants based on the cost of rebuilding, rather than pre-storm home value. In other words, homeowners with the exact same rebuilding costs should be treated equally.