(New Orleans, LA) – At a hearing before the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity of the House Committee on Financial Services today, Matthew Colangelo, Director of LDF’s Economic Justice Group, testified that federal hurricane recovery funds have been distributed in a way that unfairly excludes African American families from returning to their homes in New Orleans.
Colangelo testified before a congressional subcommittee regarding the Road Home Program, which was created by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA) to help families that were displaced four years ago by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. With an $11 billion budget, the Road Home Program is the largest housing recovery program in American history. Colangelo testified that by linking housing assistance to the depressed values of black families’ pre-storm segregated housing, HUD and the LRA have designed a program that awards disproportionately lower grants to African American homeowners, in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Housing & Community Development Act.
In New Orleans, as in many cities, homes in predominantly African American communities had lower values than those in white communities, even when the condition, style, and quality of homes were comparable. As a result, African Americans were more likely to receive Road Home grants based on the depressed pre-storm value of their homes, rather than on the cost to repair their homes – leaving African American families far short of the resources they need to restore their homes and communities. This disparity is the subject of a class-action lawsuit that LDF has filed in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, the National Fair Housing Alliance, and the law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.
“The 111th Congress has a responsibility to ensure that our nation’s largest housing recovery program does not go down in history as a government-sponsored act of housing discrimination,” Colangelo testified.