HOME AGAIN! The Landry Family Home
New Orleans demonstration house is back in order
Posted February 14, 2008 | Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-588-6141
"It's not how you make it through Katrina, but what you do afterwards that will matter," a friend told Bari Landry shortly after floodwaters ravaged her home in New Orleans.
Eight months have passed since Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in American history. Eight months of tears, muck, insurance claims, loss and exile. Bari returned to the city in early October when only about 50,000 people (out of the pre-hurricane population of 460,000) had ventured back. Immediately, her employer offered a no interest loan to start renovating her Arts and Crafts bungalow.
It hardly seemed possible those long months ago, but after all the suffering and hard, hard work Bari now has a better home, closer neighborhood, greater sense of purpose and a new career.
"When I returned in October there was only one other person within a couple blocks," says Bari. "As I began cleaning and repairing, more neighbors appeared at my door. They asked if I was moving back, and I always said yes. It may have been wishful thinking, but I told them that I expected most everyone in the neighborhood would return. This seemed to be enough to convince undecided neighbors to start cleaning their houses."
Indeed, an April poll confirms that almost 85% of residents are returning to South Lakeview, Bari’s middle-class neighborhood listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This return rate to a severely flooded neighborhood is one of the highest in the city. The Trust's HOME AGAIN! New Orleans project, which Bari and others in damaged historic neighborhoods are participating in, has been instrumental in demonstrating the way home for many citizens.
"As residents began to return, we handed out information from the National Trust and its local partner Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, attended their weekly workshops and held our own," says Bari, speaking about her neighborhood. "We also had continual on-site visits from volunteer architects and engineers brought to New Orleans by the Trust."
Because Bari's house was less than 50% damaged, she was able to get a work permit without a flood elevation survey. "Once the permit was secured, I faced what would become one of my greatest challenges – finding reliable contactors who were not already overbooked," says Bari, who called ten electricians before getting a commitment. Experienced roofers with good references were (and are) just as hard to come by. To help homeowners, the Preservation Resource Center hosts a listserv that shares recommendations for building practices and contractors.
The restoration of destroyed utilities has been a long process. Water and sewer services were available in South Lakeview when Bari returned, but electricity was not flowing until November and gas service not until January, 2006. Telephone service with Bari's pre-Katrina supplier is still not available, but she recently got a land line through the cable company.
"Luckily, with advice from the Trust I figured out a plan before I returned to New Orleans," Bari says. "I contacted the insurance company immediately. Two weeks after I returned, adjusters surveyed my home. My children’s schools opened in early October so I could bring them back and live with family on dry land until our house was ready."
"The interior architectural features were all intact. The Trust helped me plan out the proper techniques for saving and repairing the plaster walls, cypress floors, woodwork, and doors," says Bari. "The methods I used for eliminating mold and dampness were verified by a volunteer mold specialist from the Trust who examined my home with dampness meters. She advised me how to dry out the remaining spots and determine when it was safe to replace some Sheetrock."
Most residents of New Orleans would agree that Bari is way ahead of them. For people who have had a "wait and see" approach, the cost of rebuilding is going through the roof, well beyond early insurance estimates. Health and safety factors are also a growing concern. It’s a battle to stop the spread of mold, infestation of pests and rodents, and the creeping blight that happens when a few homes on a block are left untended. Neighbors are taking it on themselves to clean up not only their own homes but also the neighborhoods, and Bari is very active in helping the greater community get back on its feet. She serves on the Mayor's Bring New Orleans Back Commission as well as her neighborhood association.
Repairs continue on her home, but they are mostly cosmetic. Her family is once again settled into a routine. And Bari quit her job of 20 years as a computer programmer to become program development coordinator for Rebuilding Together at the Preservation Resource Center.
"I believe that I have found a way to make my contribution to the city, and I am thrilled to be doing it while living in the home and neighborhood I love," Bari says.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.