Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Ark of Confusion (NOAH saga continues...)

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2008 at 11:07 PM

If a program was created to gut and board the homes of elderly and low income homeowners and was expected to result in 5,000 gutted homes, why was it suspended in July 2007 with only 870 remediated properties? A city official says it was because Dr. Blakely decided to shift the focus of the city’s recovery.

      The City Council Recovery Committee met today to discuss the ongoing controversy surrounding New Orleans Affordable Housing (NOAH) program. According to Anthony Faciane from the Office of Recovery and Development Administration, NOAH was awarded $3.6 million in city and federal funds to remediate homes owned by the elderly and low-income homeowners.  Faciane says that a NOAH list that contained 1157 property records which showed numerous problems including houses that didn’t exist and property owners who shouldn’t have qualified for the program, wasn’t an official list, but only an intake form for possible property remediations.

     Faciane went on to say that the official list is for 870 properties for which NOAH was paid $1.8 million. Later in meeting, former NOAH director Stacy Jackson told the Council that she made the mistake of sending the list of 1157 properties, the intake form, to Councilwoman Stacy Head and others who requested information from the agency. Neither Faciane nor Jackson explained how NOAH officials could perform intake forms for houses that don’t exist according to the city’s database.

     Sarah Lewis from Squandered Heritage, a nonprofit group that has been investigating the NOAH program, says this new list has problems as well. There are duplications of services — NOAH lists separately 434 Scott Street and 434 South Scott Street as having each received $3240 in services from contractor Parish Dubuclet even though there is no Scott Street in New Orleans — and a remediation completed on a lot that is not part of parish assessor’s database.

     Faciane later told reporters that the program was originally set up to aid those who couldn’t afford remediation because of the exorbitant prices being charged. He says that by mid-2007, Dr. Blakely made the decision to halt the program in order to focus on other aspects of the recovery.

     There is still $1.8 million left in the city’s NOAH contract, but Faciane says it hasn’t been decided what services NOAH will be providing, if any, to satisfy the contract. Faciane says that ORDA annually contracts with NOAH for $880,000 in services. The only program that NOAH lists on its site  is the home remediation program. The NOAH site doesn’t mention the program’s suspension and provides an online application form for the program.

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