Sunday, August 22, 2010
BLOOD RELATIVE ORDINANCE
The other day, Interboro had a surprise visit from Nurhan Gokturk, our pal from grad school who we hadn't seen in a while. After grad school, Nurhan moved to New Orleans, where he started a company building affordable, modular, New Orleans-style shotgun houses (this was in 2002 or so, before Katrina). Since then, Nurhan has built close to 100 scattered-site units.
This in itself is worth of an Arsenal of Inclusion entry, but we'd like to focus here on an exclusionary tactic that Nurhan encountered. When we asked Nurhan how he gets his sites, and whether or not he had been able to acquire scattered-site housing in "non-impacted" areas or "opportunity zones" (i.e., white suburbs), he said he tried (in St. Bernard Parish), but was thwarted by something that is even creepier than it sounds: a “blood-relative ordinance.” After Katrina, the Parish's Council President introduced an ordinance mandating that owners of single family homes that had not been rentals previous to Hurricane Katrina could only rent said single-family homes to their blood relatives (the Parish had previously introduced a moratorium on multi-family housing). An article we found in The Root called "Keeping St. Bernard Parish White" makes the obvious conclusion: "With an 88 percent white population which owned 93 percent of the housing stock before the storm, it was pretty clear at whom that ordinance targeted: black people, particularly those dislocated from their homes, and especially those who lived in the demolished public housing projects."
This is one of those weapons on the Arsenal of Exclusion--like EXCLUSIONARY AMENITIES or CONDITIONS, COVENANTS and RESTRICTIONS--that makes you want to throw up your hands and give up, or at least take a cynical attitude towards fair housing laws that, no matter how carefully we craft them, can always be circumvented. The BLOOD RELATIVE ORDINANCE is a reminder that evil is really creative, cleaver, and determined.
Fortunately, so is good. As reported here, soon after the ordinance was introduced in 2005, The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center (GNOFHAC), a private, non-profit civil rights organization filed a lawsuit in federal court to force the Parish to repeal the ordinance and the moratorium on multi-family housing. The Parish repealed the blood-relative language of the single family ordinance in February of 2008.