By Ariella Cohen, The Lens staff writer
The Housing Authority of New Orleans will provide the public with information on where recipients of Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers live, HANO chief David Gilmore said today.
“I am going to figure out some way to provide information that would be useful without violating people’s privacy,” Gilmore said in an interview after the authority’s monthly board meeting. He said that he would “be happy” to show the concentrations of federally subsidized housing units by census tract.
“We should be able to do that without violating people’s rights,” he said. “The whole point of this program is to let people blend into neighborhoods. We don’t want to do anything that would compromise that.”
Gilmore, said that there is no way that specific addresses of voucher recipients would ever be released. “It would be like making people wear a scarlet letter,” he said.
Gilmore was sent by federal Housing and Urban Development authorities to New Orleans in November to act as the one-person oversight board and clean up of the long-troubled agency.
The commitment to a census-tract analysis of voucher use came in response to a request from the City Council Housing and Human Needs Committee for a map illustrating concentrations of subsidized units.
At a Monday committee meeting, Gilmore’s staff said the authority does not analyze addresses where vouchers are in use to find patterns or concentrations, and they voiced concerns that any analysis that was released could violate people’s privacy rights.
Earlier in Tuesday’s HANO meeting, Gilmore gave final approval for the authority to submit an application to HUD for a Choice Neighborhood Grant to redevelop the Iberville public housing complex.
He opened the meeting with discussion of a “spirited” public meeting Monday night about the redevelopment attended by activists from a group, Hands Off Iberville, that opposes redevelopment. Gilmore said that he would not tolerate personal attacks or insults at today’s meeting.
“Your microphone will be taken away,” he said.
Gilmore also defended the authority’s practice of stopping activists from the group from distributing fliers in the complex about its redevelopment, saying it’s in line with other policies. For example, he said HANO doesn’t let restaurants leave menus under apartment doors.
“This is home for families and we are protecting them from unwanted solicitation,” he said.
Before approving the Choice Neighborhood resolution, Gilmore commended Iberville residents for their involvement in the project planning process and asked those residents who opposed the redevelopment to speak out.
He said he’s content to do nothing if residents are happy with their current situation.
“Say to me … ‘When I am lying in my bed at night, looking at my four walls, I think this is what I’ve always dreamed life should be,’ ” he said. “If people believe that, I don’t see any reason to proceed.”
Gilmore promised the few residents present at the meeting that the process would be more transparent and better managed than previous public housing redevelopment efforts.
In the five years since Hurricane Katrina jumpstarted the redevelopment of the city’s other four major public housing complexes, the authority has been roundly criticized for everything from failing to communicate with residents, to not involving them in the redevelopment process, to unfairly displacing them.
“If we as an agency made some mistakes at the Big Four and other developments, those mistakes will not be replicated,” he said.