October 27, 2011; WDSU | Literally hundreds of abandoned lots that were given to nonprofits to develop after Hurricane Katrina are being taken back by the city six years later. One thousand lots were originally awarded to nonprofits in the wake of the hurricane, with the understanding that they would be redeveloped within 270 days.
Jeff Hebert, the director of the Blight Policy and Economic Development Department, said, “What was most interesting was a lot of your high-performing nonprofits had a lot of property that they hadn’t developed yet”—adding that many were faced with financing problems when the real estate market crashed. But after giving them another deadline for new plans by October 11, the city is going to go ahead with recovering the property. “Clearly, it’s been years so we can exercise our right to take the properties back,” Hebert says.
There are six groups involved—one of which is ACORN, which owns one-third of the 300 lots, and most of which are in Ward 9—that remain undeveloped.
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The city may redistribute some of the properties to other nonprofits who have gotten traction on redeveloping lots.
Ora Lee Fields, who lives on a block where hers is the only house standing, says she is glad the city is taking action. “I say Lord, I got all this grass and everything,” she said. “I got a brand new house and I’m living in the wilderness!”—Ruth McCambridge