The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
It is the developers of these new, mixed-income communities who have provided some of the most vocal opposition to the changing policy. HRI Properties, a New Orleans-based real-estate firm, has been central in much of the post-Katrina redevelopment in the city. HRI is redeveloping the historic Iberville housing projects in the French Quarter where wrecking balls have taken down most of the 75 original three-story buildings. It was one of the few projects in the city untouched by Hurricane Katrina, but after years of negotiations, HANO has finally commenced redevelopment of the property into a mixed-income community. According to HRI’s website, the company’s mission is “revitalizing cities by creating diverse, vibrant and sustainable communities.”
The company also manages River Gardens Apartments, a mixed-income housing complex built with government grants that replaced the public housing at St. Thomas Projects. River Gardens is now home to 606 units on 40 acres of land. Forty percent are public-housing units and 60 percent are market rate. When the community was known as St. Thomas, it had 1,500 units, 100 percent of which were public housing.
Pres Kabacoff, the chief executive officer of HRI Properties, has been adamant about the need to reform the New Orleans criminal justice system, and has even written an impassioned letter to the editor of The Times-Picayune.
Yet Kabacoff doesn’t mince words when it comes to the new HANO criminal-background screening policy. “We have a dual mission on our side,” he explained over the phone. “To make mixed housing work, you have to attract market rate and you have to keep them there. You don’t want market rate to leave because they think the place is dangerous.”
HRI has already come under fire for its management of public housing units in the River Gardens development, where residents claim they are subject to unlawful invasion of their apartments by private security officers working for the company and are served with eviction notices for minor offenses such as missing cabinet knobs or broken window blinds. Critics suggest this dynamic has to do with the fundamental flaw in private managers running public-housing units.
When asked if HRI would adopt the new HANO policy allowing formerly incarcerated people back into public housing, Kabacoff said he didn’t think so. “We don’t think we have to adhere to HANO’s policy. You can’t impose rules after you’ve done a deal.”
According to some stakeholders, it could come to litigation.
“We are trying with honey,” said Reilly about implementing the policy. “But if we need to, we will use vinegar.”
Management of the proposed housing units is not the only flaw in the pending HANO policy. Some fair housing advocates say its failure to address eviction proceedings means that many families won’t be reunited for long, particularly because the authority continues to adhere to the “one-strike rule” on evictions.
lost her Section 8 voucher
Kim Parker, a single mother with three children, knows this story too well. For years she lived peacefully in a Section 8-subsidized unit in east New Orleans. Then last year, Parker says, a week before Christmas, police officers broke down her door with a warrant that did not include a name, and found her 21-year-old son, Desmond Parker, smoking marijuana. They arrested him after allegedly intimidating her son into signing an affidavit that the drugs were his. Parker had to post a bail bond of $1,800.
“I was mad,” Parker said. “My child was not a criminal. He had never been to jail ever.”
But Desmond had dreadlocks and drove a beat-up Lexus from 1998. He fit the profile, he said, and that made him a target. “They thought I was doing something wrong,” he said, but “my name wasn’t even on the warrant.”
Desmond eventually completed a court-ordered sobriety program. He was never charged with anything, and his criminal record remained clean. But because his name was on the lease, his arrest triggered a HANO termination hearing, and Parker lost her Section 8 voucher. Unable to afford the rent without government assistance, she was forced to take her daughter to Ft. Worth, Texas, to live with Parker’s sister.
“There was nothing in my history for any problems,” said Parker. “We had a clean record. When this happened, I lost my voucher. Me and my daughter were homeless. I lost my job.”
Parker’s lawyers point out that a HANO hearing is different from a legal hearing. Hearsay is allowed, so the burden of proof shifts onto the defendant.
Her lawyers remain hopeful that Parker’s voucher will be reinstated upon appeal. In the meantime, she has returned to New Orleans, where Desmond works a minimum-wage night shift at a Sheraton Hotel. He now pays the rent for a market-rate two-bedroom that the family of five lives in.
adopted her grandchildren so they'd have a home
Still, those who work in the field of low-income housing in New Orleans are adamant that there are reasons to celebrate the new policy, should it ever be implemented. New Orleans remains the most punitive city in the world in terms of jailing people. But with the right alignment of voices and interests, it is poised to become a national leader in rethinking criminal justice and its collateral consequences.
“New Orleans is not often first in things that are good,” said Wool. “For New Orleans to do this, it’s a remarkable thing.”
For the families who live in public housing, the change could mean peace of mind when welcoming loved ones home.
“My grandchildren should be living with their mother,” who is still on probation, said Tadlock. After the chaos of navigating her own public housing situation, Tadlock started working as a community organizer. She said her experience with HANO helped her realize that none of these changes will matter unless the affected community organizes to help implement them. People, she said, simply don't know their rights. For now, her daughter, who remains an active presence in her children’s lives, is prohibited from stepping onto public-housing grounds. “Maybe, if this policy does go through, things can get right.”