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Rebuilding New Orleans: An urban planning challenge

Nearly seven years since Katrina hit, the recovery of the Gulf Coast is still one of our greatest urban planning challenges today.

I worked with residents of the Ninth Ward to develop community-based recovery plans in the aftermath of the storm. Since then, my research has tracked neighborhood rebuilding in New Orleans.

With a travel award from the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, I was able to present research about post-Katrina housing recovery at the recent Urban Affairs Association’s annual conference in Pittsburgh. The recovery of housing units is critical to a city’s resilience—after all, housing is essential to population recovery and forms the backbone of the built environment.

Housing reconstruction in New Orleans has been
slow in many low income and African-American neighborhoods.

In many areas of New Orleans, housing recovery has been very slow. Class and race have had substantial impacts on recovery times—housing repairs for those with lower incomes and for African-Americans have been much slower than for other populations. These effects are enhanced by available funding sources. Better-off households with homeowner’s insurance have been recovering quickly, and those relying on the federally funded Road Home grant program have been rebuilding much more slowly. Considering all facets of sustainability, including these complicated social factors, are essential in planning for the long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast, as well as addressing more local issues like neighborhood gentrification in Portland.

Lisa K. Bates is an assistant professor in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State.