New Orleans – As Bob Butler and Jessica Williams report for The Lens, “Each day, after wrapping up work as a streetcar operator, Kisa Holmes drives by to check on the house she bought in the Upper 9th Ward just weeks before Hurricane Katrina – a house that now sits empty, gutted and deteriorating because she can’t afford to fix it…. Before making the first mortgage payment, Holmes, her husband and their five children fled 90 miles to Kentwood to escape Katrina. Like many others, she thought she’d be home in a couple of months.
She was fully insured, including flood coverage, and believed that she would soon have the money to repair the house. But she was unprepared for the push from her bank to use her insurance money to pay off her mortgage, with which she complied, thinking it was in her best interest. Instead, it made the Holmes family the free-and-clear owners of a nearly worthless piece of property. Worse, that decision hampered the family’s ability to take full advantage of key federal disaster recovery money…. Though more complicated than most, Holmes’ story is just one of many behind the more than 40,000 blighted homes across the city, despite concerted and growing anti-blight efforts.”