Post-Katrina New Orleans still in rental housing crunch

Hurricane Katrina wiped out 70 percent of available housing in New Orleans, and rents in the city have stayed 47 percent higher than they were before the 2005 flooding, according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Unity of Greater New Orleans, a coalition of city service organizations advocating affordable housing, reports 51,000 rental units were lost in the disaster and calls New Orleans "the most rent-burdened community in the nation" as a result.

The group claims that residents here spend a larger portion of their earnings on rent than New Yorkers do because wages are so much lower. It also puts the number of homeless residents at 4,900, a number nearly two and a half times larger than it was seven years ago, reports the news source.

"We are very much still in a search and rescue operation seven years after the storm,” said Martha Kegel, the executive director of Unity, which maintains a
force of outreach workers which comb the city's streets and abandoned buildings to locate homeless people needing help.

Unity opened its own 60-unit building in February for homeless and working-poor renters without requiring credit reports.

Some 40,000 buildings and a quarter of residential housing remain vacant in the Big Easy, according to the paper.