Katrina survivors face eviction

Published Dec 2, 2006 10:22 PM

One hundred residents of the Woodlands apartment complex in New Orleans face eviction by a double-dealing landlord and the property management group to which he sold the complex.

The complex was being managed by the Common Ground Collective. The collective’s stated mission is to provide short-term relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the Gulf Coast region, and long-term support in rebuilding the affected communities in the New Orleans area.

Common Ground is a community-initiated volunteer organization offering assistance, mutual aid and support. The work gives hope to communities by working with them, providing for their immediate needs. The emphasis is on people working together to rebuild their lives in sustainable ways.

Common Ground Collective had taken over managing the apartment complex known as the Woodlands. The collective wanted to provide affordable housing, and its long-term goal was to purchase the property to create cooperative housing, small-business cooperatives, social programs and human-services offices. Common Ground would maintain rents that were the lowest in the city.

Common Ground had rehabilitated more than 100 housing units in the Woodlands complex and provided for 100 residents who signed leases with the group.

The owner of the complex, Anthony Regenelli, who had entered into an agreement with Common Ground to purchase the complex, sold the Woodlands out from under the collective to the Johnson Property Group, LLC. Both Reginelli and the new owners are trying to evict 100 residents during this holiday season.

The collective—begun after Hurricane Katrina had pass over, and its after-effects and the criminal neglect of the poor and Black residents were being felt—stands in the way of those who want to gentrify the whole city.

After Hurricane Katrina, rents in New Orleans skyrocketed—all part of a process to push out the poor and mostly Black residents to reinvent New Orleans as a play destination for the rich.

Before Katrina, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $578 a month. After the storm the average rent shot up to $803 a month. The city has also slated 5,000 public housing units for demolition.

Developers, landlords and bankers in the area salivated at the prospects, and even conspired to try to oust a mayor they had once helped to elect because he is Black and remarked on keeping New Orleans a “chocolate city.”

The people of New Orleans, though dispersed throughout the country, have vociferously expressed their desire to keep their city—by marching, protesting and re-electing Mayor Ray Nagin. Though Nagin represents the aims of the New Orleans ruling elite, the re-election campaign had become a matter of self-determination for the city that was nearly 70-percent Black before the storm.

The residents of the Woodlands are ready to fight, once again showing that the people of New Orleans—a city where the culture was forged during slavery and the racist repression that followed the end of chattel slavery—will not simply let their city be taken from them.

The residents will be in court to fight the eviction orders at 9 a.m. on Nov. 28, at the Second City Court, at the Historic Algiers Courthouse. They have initiated a letter-writing campaign and will be calling news conferences and protests.

Sample letters can be found at: www.commongroundrelief.org/files/woodlands1.pdf.

The group can be contacted via e-mail at nolaevictiondefense@gmail.com.

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