THE BLOG
04/08/2008 12:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

"But There Was a Catch"

That could serve as the motto for the experience of New Orleanians, in and out of the city, in the wake of the failure of the federal levees that flooded the community in 2005. For those commenters who believe that the exiles don't want to come home, today"s Times-Picayune carries a factual refutation, in the stories of Houston exiles who, up to now, have been forbidden to return despite the fact that their housing aid has been theoretically "portable":

But there was a catch: While voucher holders theoretically can transport their "portable" rental assistance to any housing authority, the housing authorities that the families leave must make payments based on the new city's rents.

Houston and other housing agencies can restrict transfers to markets with higher rents, said HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan. A voucher for a two-bedroom New Orleans apartment is worth $990 per month while the same voucher in Houston pays $852.

So a housing official rejected Martin's request, saying that rents in post-Katrina New Orleans are too high.

So New Orleanians seeking to return home have been punished by the failure of the market and every level of government, after almost three years, to deal with the flood's decimation of the rental housing stock in the city. According to the T-P story, HUD has stepped in now to deal with this particular catch, but how many more such catches are standing between the exiles and their home?