A lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that a federal plan to demolish four public housing complexes is discriminatory and violates international laws that protect people displaced by natural disasters.
The suit was filed by several residents against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, which was effectively taken over by HUD four years ago because of mismanagement.
After Hurricane Katrina, HUD laid out a plan to demolish four of the city’s deteriorating complexes, reopen others closed since Katrina and give public housing residents more money to rent homes with vouchers.
But critics say the agency’s plan will drive black families out of the city. Before Katrina, 5,100 families lived in public housing units in New Orleans; only 1,100 have returned since the storm.
Angry residents have been staging marches and set up a tent city to protest HUD’s decision to board up public housing.
“It’s time to let people come home,” said Judith Browne, a lawyer with the Advancement Project, a civil rights group that filed the suit.
HUD spokesman Jerry Brown said the agency wants residents to return to New Orleans but does not want to put people back into a flawed housing system.
The HUD plan, Brown said, will help New Orleans rebuild for a more prosperous future. “This is about the next generation,” he said.
The suit says the plan violates fair housing, equal protection and international laws that allow people to return to their homes “voluntarily, in safety and with dignity.”