Sheelzebub, in a new post today on Pandagon, has a great deal of sympathy for the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina who were not homeowners, and thus had no homeowners’ insurance to make up for their destroyed residences:
Katrina survivorsâ€“taking action (aka the Leigh post)
Published by Sheelzebub July 13th, 2007
In the comments to this post, Leigh pointed out that we need to support legislation in the works that will help the abandoned Katrina survivors:
I urge folks, if you do contact your senators, to tell them YOU SUPPORT H.R. 1227 and S. 1668, the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Acts. The House bill is (unsurprisingly) the more progressive of the two (explicitly requiring the government to honor the â€œright to returnâ€ of public housing residents), but the Senate bill is pretty close, and has some additional funds for affordable housing.
Supporting these two bills is critical; the Senateâ€™s has just been introduced, and is already under GOP fire for expanding entitlement programs (it would transfer FEMA-assisted households into Section 8 programs).
She also left a comment about the philanthropic organizations that are helping survivors. Check out her comment and give these organizations your support, if you can.
Leigh has a post up on this issue, which I urge everyone to read.
Then, go to this website contact your senators and representatives, and tell them that you want to see the passage of H.R. 1227 (for the House) and S. 1668 (Senate). Also make it very clear that you want the right to return for all evacuees (especially in the case of S. 1668, which doesnâ€™t have as strong a commitment to that).
The â€œright of return for public housing residents?â€ Does that mean that the government would be required to build replacement public housing, in virtually the same locations, as their old units, and then subsidize their housing expenses?
When I lived in Hampton, Virginia, the building code required that the minimum first floor level was 9 feet above sea level; you could not get a building permit for any residential structure lower than that. (You could have a floor for an unattached or ground level garage below nine feet.) One family contacted me about building an addition to their house: even though the house had a first floor at 8’5″ above sea level (built in the 1960s, before the building code change), that could not be grandfathered, and the addition would have to be at least 9′. (The addition never got built; it would have been a monstrosity on a ranch home, with a seven inch riser and a headroom cove cut out of the kitchen ceiling.)
This made a lot of sense, because it winds up being the government which bears some responsibility for flood damages; flood insurance is a federal program. I was required to have federal flood insurance on my home when I bought it, because it was within 1,000 feet of tidal water. (My first floor was about 12′ above sea level. One of Mrs Pico’s friends had the only house in all of Grandview, the neighborhood in which we lived, which had a basement, and the only thing Brenda had in her basement was a pump.)
So, Iâ€™ve got to ask: does it make any sense to use taxpayer money to build residential structures in parts of New Orleans that are below sea level? Parts of some wards are almost twenty feet below sea-level; if you built on stilts (the way some coastal homes are), youâ€™d have to have a first floor around thirty feet above ground level.
Now, as far as I am concerned, if some fool wants to build a house below sea level, it’s fine with me if he does — if he uses his own money. His money, his risk. But I wouldn’t spend government money on it, nor would I have such a residence eligible for federal flood coverage.
We spent billions and billions on the levee system for New Orleans — some of which was diverted for other uses — over several administrations, both Republican and Democrat, and the levee system was still not sufficient to protect the city from Katrina, which, by the time we finally got accurate measurements, was only at the high end of category three.
If after all of those billions of dollars, the levees were insufficient to protect New Orleans from a Category 3 hurricane, how much more will have to be spent to protect the city from a Category 5?
Leigh’s original post mentions a lot of things that are being done wrong, primarily along the lines of local communities trying to redisplace the already displaced Katrina evacuees in FEMA trailers. Some communities simply don’t want the evacuees living there.
But having sympathy for the victims of a natural disaster, and saying that they ought not to be discriminated against, is not the same thing as saying that we ought to be spending taxpayer dollars to build residential units ten or twenty feet below sea level, in an area so vulnerable to hurricanes. That’s just foolishness.
We’ll wind up spending public money on the displaced, to put them in some sort of residences other than FEMA trailers; that’s a given. But that does not mean that it makes any sense at all to build new housing in a hole in the ground; whatever public obligation we assume for such people does not require that they be returned to the same place.