New Orleans: Where Did the Money Go?

04/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

That's a question that's often asked by commenters here critical of my repeated suggestions that the Federal government, under both Bush and Obama, has failed in its responsibility to remediate the damage caused by the failure of its so-called hurricane protection system in 2005. So, this report in Monday's Times-Picayune helps to clear some of the fog. The State of Louisiana has just replaced the previous private contractor, ICF, in charge of the program to renovate or rebuild affordable rental housing in the city:

The rental program was designed to restore up to 18,000 of the state's 81,000 rental units destroyed in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It has fallen well short of that goal.

In two years, $50 million of the $869 million has been distributed as forgivable loans to landlords who have restored a total of 1,073 units.

Under the terms of the program, about three-quarters of those units are for low-income families, at prescribed affordable rents.

While landlords have received about $50 million to fix the units, ICF has collected more than $40 million to run the program.

So the contractor collected almost as much money for administration as it disbursed for actual repair of housing units. But the program's goal, "fallen well short of", was to restore less then a quarter of the housing units lost in the flooding. Blame, should one care to assign it, can fall almost equally on the state, on the private contractor, and on the Feds, for not realizing that the affordable housing crisis in New Orleans called for perhaps a more ambitious goal.

And, while the Jindal administration bounces the former prime contractor of the torpid program, the White House and Congress, both under Democratic control, do exactly what?