All Those Federal Funds: Why the New Orleans Recovery is Slow

09/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For commenters to my posts on New Orleans who keep asking a variant of "why, with all the federal billions sent down there, is the city's recovery so slow?", an authoritative answer is now available, thanks to this report in today's Times-Picayune.

Some highlights:

Researchers concluded that "enormous obstacles" blocked the recovery for homeowners, most of whom faced shortfalls to rebuild, and renters, who cannot find moderately priced places to rent.

In New Orleans, 81 percent of Road Home recipients received awards that did not cover the needed repairs to their homes. The average shortfall was $54,586

"Road Home" grants were based on pre-Katrina property values, so houses in poorer areas of town, like the lower 9th Ward, had greater disparities between Road Home grants and the cost of replacement. That's a nice touch. But there's more...

The program to help rebuild rental housing -- essential to the return of working-class families to the city -- is stuck in the preliminary stage, after almost three years. One key reason:

Because of federal requirements, it is a reimbursement program, so most landlords have to get private financing and then recoup their investment, a substantial hardship for those who are paying mortgages on their property without any rental income

Doesn't look like corruption, or Democratic state officials, or any of the other bogeymen usually cited by outsiders have much role in this slow-motion disaster. Looks like President Bush, who claimed victory yesterday at Jackson Barracks then skedaddled out of town, really didn't mean his promise three years ago at Jackson Square to do whatever was needed to help the city return, revive, and rebuild. Imagine that.