A day before the first public meeting on a proposed redevelopment of the Iberville public housing complex, Mayor Mitch Landrieu endorsed the concept of a sweeping transformation of the Treme neighborhood. He told an audience at an affordable-housing conference today that Iberville’s proximity to streetcar lines, the French Quarter and the city’s medical district make it an ideal site for redevelopment.
“All the big elements are already there,” he said. “You tie it all together and you will have one of the greatest neighborhoods in the city,” Landrieu told affordable-housing builders, policymakers and advocates gathered at an event hosted by Greater New Orleans Foundation.
The redevelopment will be discussed in greater detail, and likely with more contention, at a meeting of the Iberville Residents Council to be held Thursday in the City Council chambers. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Speaking today from her apartment in the low-rise brick complex, Iberville Resident Council President Kim Piper said that the complex’s rebuilding has been a long time coming, but that residents haven’t yet had a chance to hear any details of the latest plans. She hopes Thursday’s meeting will be a chance for people to learn more, and push for what they want to see happen in their community.
“I hope a lot of people come out and voice their opinions,” she said.
Piper said her top priority for the redevelopment is the one-for-one replacement of all the complex’s 819 units. She also hopes the construction is done in phases to reduce displacement.
“We need units for everyone to come back,” she said.
Piper’s vision, however, does not appear to agree with Housing Authority of New Orleans plans. A solicitation for developers issued by HANO last month says that the new Iberville will have “approximately half (400)” of the number of public housing units on site with the remaining approximately 400 units scattered across the city in “off-site opportunities in other New Orleans neighborhoods.” The housing authority can meet federal regulations that require one-for-one replacement of all public housing by supplying rent vouchers or creating smaller “scattered-site” developments. HANO spokesman David Jackson did not respond to questions from The Lens.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Senior Advisor Fred Tombar shared the stage with Landrieu today at the conference. Raised in eastern New Orleans, Tombar contributed some memories to the discussion of changes in public housing. He recalled how public schools and hospitals in the area where he grew up became overcrowded when HANO demolished the old Desire public housing development in the 1990s and residents used vouchers to move to the area.
“We know how to do things better now,” Tombar said. The HUD official declined to comment on the city’s chances of securing a HUD grant — the Choice Neighborhood program — HANO is applying for to use at Iberville.
“It’s a competitive grant,” Tombar said. “New Orleans will be up against cities all over the country.”