7th Ward neighborhood upset blight remains despite promised help

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 11, 2012 at 10:24 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 11 at 10:42 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Neighbors in one 7th Ward community are tired of staring at dozens of blighted properties and empty lots.

They blame an organization that is suppose to be solving the problem.

"That one right there was an empty lot. The other one up the street that was an empty lot," said Willie Jones, pointing out the vacant properties on Annette Street.

Jones moved to the block after Hurricane Katrina. Now Jones' neighbors include three vacant homes, but new construction is also popping up.

"I think they're good. I'd prefer a new house that's been constructed sound and everything else. Instead of blighted houses," said Jones of the Katrina cottage homes being built by Neighborhood Housing Services of New Orleans, or NHS.

The non-profit inherited approximately 60 sale of adjudicated properties, or SOAP, citywide after Katrina to turn into affordable housing.

According to NHS to date, only nine of those properties have been developed in the 7th Ward.

"They are the largest property owner in our neighborhood as a result of the properties the city donated to them through the SOAP program after the storm. At this point, they're stagnating. Most of them are vacant lots," said homeowner Owen Feldbaum, who believes NHS isn't doing enough five years down the road.

"I do think my neighbors and those families who have been entrenched in this neighborhood for so long now deserve a higher level of accountability from the city and from groups like NHS," said Feldbaum, who is also a member of 7th Ward People's Initiative - a group of local residents working to stamp out blight.

Feldbaum also criticizes the city for not putting the SOAP properties in better hands.

"We're frustrated too. I really empathize with the frustration of neighbors who know this is our intent but don't see the progress," said NHS CEO Lauren Anderson.

The non-profit says it is doing all it can to re-develop SOAP properties in a timely manner, including those vacant lots in the 7th Ward.

The biggest hiccup, according to Anderson, is lack of funding.

"We've been working very closely and very diligently and very aggressively with the city to move the funding along," said Anderson.

A promise of better things to come for residents in one 7th Ward neighborhood who continue to watch and wait.

In the past, the Landrieu Administration has said it was re-evaluating the city's SOAP program and working to curb blight through sheriff's sales.

City of New Orleans spokesman Ryan Berni issued this statement in response to our story:

"The issues surrounding the previous administration's SOAP program are ongoing, which is one of the reasons our blight strategy focuses so much more on sheriff's sales as a method for property disposition. In late 2011, we sent legal notices to nonprofits that received properties from the previous administration to let them know that we have the option of citing undeveloped and blighted properties for blight or taking the properties back altogether. That process continues." - Ryan Berni

 

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