NEW ORLEANS - The Lower 9th Ward is arguably the one area of New Orleans which has had the slowest recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Many streets are lined with potholes, more than usual in New Orleans. There are few outlets for fresh groceries and retail shopping. But there is an abundance of empty, blighted or abandoned properties.
"We don't see a situation in nine years after the storm, where there's an influx of any individuals, moving or purchasing property or even attempting to do that," said State Representative Wesley Bishop.
The Lower 9th Ward is where State Representative Wesley Bishop grew up. It's now part of the district he represents. If the "Lower 9" is to ever bounce from Katrina, Bishop says those neglected and often overgrown lots in the area must be revived. Bishop has sponsored two bills, HB 489 and HB 1001 which, if passed, would authorize the city to sell certain abandoned or blighted lots in the Lower 9th ward to private buyers. The suggested price $100. Bishop says the legislation, which deals only with properties that have already been adjudicated and are now city or state-owned, is targeting residents now living in the Lower 9th.
"We're trying to take the individuals that are here, many of whom own their homes but they can't do a whole lot about the vacant property that's right next door. Well one thing we can do for them is let them buy it for next to nothing and hopefully they will put the same energy they put into the home they own now," said Bishop.
Presumably the $100 per blighted/abandoned lot offer would be made available to buyers and developers outside of the Lower 9th Ward. New Orleans City Councilman James Gray, whose district also encompasses the Lower 9th Ward said he's yet to thoroughly review the bills, but agreed with its intent.
"I need to see the details, but I support the idea that we need to work very hard, in putting the properties back in to commerce," said Gray.
But for Eloise Williams the idea of selling neglected lots for $100 is insulting. Williams recently moved in with her family in the Lower 9th Ward. She believes the city and state have failed to assist the original residents of the properties in getting back home.
"We have buried many a people in trying to get this situation right. Some of them have worked years to get these homes and to just sell it for a $100 is inhumane. It seems like our leaders don't get it, people want their home," said Williams.
After one of the costliest natural disasters, redeveloping the Lower 9 may start as low $100.