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Return to District 8

by DANIEL WOLFF

District 8 is the name of the area we’ve been filming for the past year; it includes the Lower 9th Ward and the Holy Cross District, both east of the industrial canal from downtown New Orleans.

Pre-Katrina, the median household income was $20,916, about 2/3rds the city-wide median. Almost 35% of the residents of District 8 lived below the poverty rate, compared to about 28% city-wide.

More people owned their homes in District 8 than city-wide (46% to 41%), fewer rented, and 14% of the houses were vacant (compared to 12.5% city-wide). The houses were worth less than half what they were in the rest of the city. The median rent was lower, too: again, around half of the city rate.

Since the flood, the official population in the Lower 9th and Holy Cross has gone from 19,515 to 390 (as of this July). 2% have come back; it’s 48% in the rest of the city.

More than half the housing was flooded to the height of four feet or higher. In the city, it was about the same. But over 75% of the District 8 houses suffered close to total damage, where it was more like 55% in the city as a whole. 13% of the district’s housing has been declared unsafe to enter, where the city percentage was closer to 3%.

Repair permits in District 8 have been issued to almost 27% of the residences, compared to 22% city-wide.

3500 properties in the District are either blighted, adjucated, or owned by the New Orleans Redevelopment authority, or 44% of the housing units. In the city as a whole, it’s more like 7%.

According to the New Orleans Police Department, there have been 0.75 calls for service per resident of District 8 through July 2006. City-wide, the police calls per resident through July was 0.08.

There is no health care facility in District 8.

[data from The Unified New Orleans Plan]

DANIEL WOLFF is a poet and author of the excellent biography of the great Sam Cooke, You Send Me, as well as the recent collection of Ernest Withers’ photographs The Memphis Blues Again. Wolff’s Grammy-nominated essay on Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers is one of the highlights of CounterPunch’s collection on art, music and sex: Serpents in the Garden. Wolff also wrote the text for the collection of Ernest Wither’s photographs in Negro League Baseball. His latest book is 4th of July/Asbury Park: A History of the Promised Land (Bloomsbury USA) For the past year, he and director Jonathan Demme have been working on a documentary about post-Katrina New Orleans. He can be reached at: ziwolff@optonline.net

 

 

Daniel Wolff’s “The Fight for Home: How (Parts of) New Orleans Came Back” is out in paperback this month.

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