[StBernard] Many in coastal La. want out

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Jan 29 22:30:54 EST 2007

Editors note: See link at end of article to view map
Many in coastal La. want out
Analysis looked at applications to 'Road Home' program
The Associated Press
Updated: 5:56 p.m. CT Jan 29, 2007

NEW ORLEANS - More than 16 months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita forced
an unprecedented exodus from the Louisiana Gulf Coast, tens of thousands of
homeowners have decided not to rebuild or have yet to make up their minds,
an Associated Press analysis found.

The AP looked at applications to the federally funded Louisiana Road Home
program, which dispenses up to $150,000 per homeowner to rebuild or sell out
to the state. Nearly 98,000 people have applied so far.

Two-thirds of all applicants said they want to rebuild their damaged
properties, while more than a quarter have indicated they want out or can't
decide what to do.

But in dozens of towns and neighborhoods, particularly those closest to the
coast, the percentages of homeowners on the fence or on the way out are
higher than average, with as many as two out of three homeowners not
committed to rebuilding. The areas, 31 ZIP codes in all, include several
heavily damaged New Orleans neighborhoods such as Lakeview and the Ninth

'Just not there' in many cases
Michael Kurth, a McNeese State University economics professor who has done
research for the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said he is not surprised.

"With the scale of destruction that occurred in those coastal areas, it
wasn't a matter of 'Let's return in a month or in two months,'" Kurth said.
"In a lot of cases, you couldn't go back to what was there before. It's just
not there."

Homeowners who remain undecided could still rebuild their destroyed homes.
But by now, many are resettled in new homes, schools and jobs. Louisiana
demographer Elliott Stonecipher said it is safe to assume that those who
were going to commit themselves to rebuilding would have done so by now.

As many as 123,000 homeowners may be eligible for Louisiana Road Home aid.
The program dispenses grants not only to rebuild damaged homes, but also to
fortify undamaged ones by raising them off the ground or installing
hurricane shutters.

Applicants must indicate whether they want to rebuild; sell and move
in-state; sell and leave the state; or are undecided.

"The folks in south Louisiana whose houses were flooded by Katrina and Rita
are necessarily going to be a little gun-shy," LRA executive director Andy
Kopplin said. "There are some areas that are more vulnerable than others."

Unease in St. Bernard Parish
In Arabi, Chalmette and Meraux - all in hard-hit St. Bernard Parish,
downriver from New Orleans - roughly two-thirds of applicants want to move
out or are still uncertain about whether to rebuild.

"My old neighbors won't be back. She went to Covington. This one went to
Tennessee," said Gerald Perry, a 59-year-old Chalmette man, pointing to the
abandoned properties on either side of his newly fixed home. "They let a
little water scare them."

In some cases, there is nothing to go back to.

Karen Ritter, 45, said the home she shares with her 80-year-old mother in
Arabi is on the verge of collapse.

Other homeowners are old and have "lived here all their lives. They had
everything they lived for in their houses. If they don't have children to
help them, there's nothing for them to do" but give up and move out, Ritter

St. Bernard Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez called the pullback
from coastal areas a "knee-jerk reaction." He predicted residents eventually
will be lured back: "People are infatuated with water. They love to be near

C 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be
published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16874565/


C 2007 MSNBC.com

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