Home Again! A Demonstrable Success
Posted May 30, 2008 | Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-588-6141
The work is far from finished. Much more needs to be accomplished. But HOME AGAIN! is demonstrating that rehabbing good historic homes is a viable alternative to demolition and a genuine welcome home to residents.
The HOME AGAIN! NEW ORLEANS program, a joint effort between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Resource Center (PRC), began as a response to the threat of wholesale demolitions of homes in local historic and National Register districts. In the early months after Katrina, historic neighborhoods that were flooded by the levee breaks and breeches faced the duel challenge of preserving damaged historic homes and aiding residents in their return to their neighborhoods.
The National Trust and PRC set out to make the case that the fastest, most cost-effective, and most environmentally friendly way for the damaged historic neighborhoods to recover was to immediately repair and renovate all homes that were salvageable. We put this position forward in the media, in every public forum where we participated, and, most importantly, in action - on the ground in the very neighborhoods that we spoke of.
"Changing the facts on the ground" was not a simple proposition. The HOME AGAIN! projects faced the same difficulties that all New Orleans homeowners faced: contractors who could not assemble full work crews, who were unfamiliar with the older homes of the city, and some who were simply dishonest; unclear and sometimes contradictory directives from government regarding the demolition process and permitting process due to lack of staff and an uncoordinated response to the crisis; homeowners facing not only the damage to their homes and loss of possessions, but at the same time having to cope with the loss of friends and family, loss of employment, loss of medical facilities, loss of schools for their children, and more.
HOME AGAIN! was designed to demonstrate that the historic homes of New Orleans could withstand and recover from events such as Katrina. It was designed to demonstrate that wholesale demolition was not the best solution to the crisis that the city faced. It was designed to demonstrate that with modest assistance homeowners, including senior citizens, could return to healthy, save, and comfortable homes, with their great advantage of familiarity and neighborhood ties.
As we approach the three-year anniversary of Katrina, evidence of the validity of our approach is clearly emerging. In South Lakeview, Bari Landry, with technical assistance and a small grant from the HOME AGAIN! program, not only repaired and restored her home, but also became a catalyst to her entire block and emerged as a leader in her community. Today, every homeowner on her block is accounted for and has renovated or is in the process of renovating their home, with but one exception.
In New Marigny, the Alexander house, which was assisted with a HOME AGAIN! grant, recently was the venue of a family wedding reception, a true celebration of life and future potential.
In Holy Cross, a focus area of the HOME AGAIN! program and one of the hardest hit historic neighborhoods, clear signs of a rebirth are mounting. The district, in the Lower 9th Ward, has great potential for a comeback due to its location next to the Mississippi and high elevation, its strong neighborhood association, and the current $260 million dollar renovation of Jackson Barracks. On the 5200 block of Dauphine where we have focused our attention, four families have returned to completely renovated homes and three others will return in the coming months. The owners of every other home and lot on the block are accounted for, and all but two are currently being renovated. In the immediate area of this anchor block, there are 20 projects currently underway, representing collaborations between the National Trust, the PRC, and the State Historic Preservation Office. A host of other organizations, whether in partnership with the National Trust and PRC or independently, have been inspired to raise the banner of the Holy Cross Historic District. These include Global Green, ACORN, Louisiana Technical College, Emerging Green Builders, HGTV, the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development, World Monuments Fund, and the Preservation Trades Network.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.