Friday, April 7, 2006

New Orleans: trailers and NIMBY

   The aftermath of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans poses a myriad of crucial land use and community development issues, of course.  Bickering among state and local officials and an apparent waning of interest in Washington have exacerbated the problems.  Here’s one of the latest in the seemingly endless wave of depressing news:  Some neighborhoods in New Orleans are opposing the siting of FEMA trailer communities to house those whose homes were destroyed.  This week, Mayor Ray Nagin sided with the residents of Algiers, a section of the city south of the river with many affluent families.  According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, FEMA was supposed to get “approval” from the neighborhood’s city council member before siting a trailer.  They say it’s “not an issue of NIMBY.” 
   It is unfortunate that, in the aftermath of Katrina, neither the federal government nor Louisiana officials recognized the emergency need to put someone in charge, who would have authority to in effect decree certain land use decisions.  Perhaps, alas, this would have been impossible.
   Some residents fear that the trailers will bring crime.  Residents can only be alarmed by reports that areas of Houston occupied largely by Katrina evacuees have experienced spikes in crime.  The fact that crime may move with residents, and does not depend whether they live in rundown shotgun shacks, suburban Houston apartments, or shiny new FEMA trailers, is of course another reason to look back at naïve policies of the past that seemed to expect that removal of slum buildings themselves would significantly ameliorate the social problems of the city.

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