Testimony comes as Bush administration, Senate GOP seeks to limit housing available to poor New Orleans residents

Chris Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies and author of a series of reports on the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery, is scheduled to brief Congress tomorrow in Washington, D.C. on the need for new programs to help tens of thousands of displaced storm victims still without permanent homes.

"More than two years after Katrina, over 60,000 people are still living in FEMA trailers because federal housing programs have delivered too little and too late," said Kromm, who most recently co-authored Blueprint for Gulf Renewal: The Katrina Crisis and a Community Agenda for Action (August/September 2007). Read a copy of the full report here (pdf).

Chris's testimony comes as the Senate considers the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act (S. 1668), a landmark piece of legislation that would boost and streamline programs to help homeowners and renters get back into houses across the Gulf Coast. A similar bill (H.R. 1227) overwhelmingly passed the House earlier this year by a vote of 302-125.

His testimony also comes as the Bush administration and its Republican allies in the Senate are fighting efforts to maintain the same number of pre-Katrina housing units affordable to poor residents of New Orleans, which would make it more difficult for displaced people to exercise their right of return. As we reported here previously, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week approved a plan to tear down four public housing complexes in the city. During yesterday's hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, HUD officials revealed that they oppose the full replacement of demolished units as provided for in S. 1668, to the shock of the bill's co-sponsor, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:

Landrieu expressed surprise at the administration's opposition to the Gulf Coast Housing Recovery bill given that similar legislation glided 302-125 through the House this year with strong bipartisan support, including from the entire Louisiana delegation. Landrieu and Dodd introduced their bill in the Senate in June.

"I'm operating for a year and a half with congressmen on both sides of the aisle with the idea that HUD is supporting our efforts," Landrieu said. "I am perplexed after a year and a half to hear you are not supporting this bill."

Among those opposing the legislation is Landrieu's colleague, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (D-La.), who incorrectly charged in a statement that the bill would "re-create the New Orleans housing projects exactly as they were." In fact, the proposal requires that any public housing apartment torn down be replaced with another form of low-income housing -- either subsidized public housing, partially subsidized "affordable" units or vouchers that offset a portion of rents. The measure allows local government officials and the Housing Authority of New Orleans to decide the appropriate mix.