The battle over low-income housing has been one of the most bitter that anyone in the middle-class, mostly white parish can remember, one that has stoked issues the region has been grappling with since Hurricane Katrina: anger at the federal government and long-simmering class and racial tensions.
It also reflects widespread anxiety about just how drastically the area changed after the floodwaters receded.

“I think people have adopted this issue as one that goes far beyond the reality of its impact,” said Craig Taffaro Jr., the parish president. Providing housing for low-income families has been one of the most vexing problems for the New Orleans area in the four years since the hurricane. Tens of thousands of homes, many of them dilapidated, are still vacant. But, in part because the houses that were destroyed were disproportionately for low-income renters, market rents in the city are 35 per cent higher than they were before the storm, out of the reach of much of the city's work force.
The demolition of the four big public housing complexes in New Orleans in 2007 and the approaching end to storm-related federal assistance programs have made these problems more critical, and their solutions more contentious.

That is particularly true in the case of St. Bernard, perhaps the jurisdiction hit the hardest by Hurricane Katrina. Nearly every one of the 26,000 houses there was severely damaged or destroyed. Ninety-three percent of them were owned by whites.
Four years later, over half of the parish residences are still vacant or unoccupied, according to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. The population, at around 37,000, is just more than half of what it was. Many former residents sold their homes to investors. Thousands of people displaced from elsewhere have moved in. In September 2006, the Parish Council passed a law that prohibited owners of single-family residences from renting to anyone except blood relatives, except by special approval by the Council.

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