Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lottery

From the President's September 15 address from New Orleans regarding Hurricane Katrina relief:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/09/20050915-8.html

And to help lower-income citizens in the hurricane region build new and better lives, I also propose that Congress pass an Urban Homesteading Act. Under this approach, we will identify property in the region owned by the federal government, and provide building sites to low-income citizens free of charge, through a lottery. In return, they would pledge to build on the lot, with either a mortgage or help from a charitable organization like Habitat for Humanity. Home ownership is one of the great strengths of any community, and it must be a central part of our vision for the revival of this region.

For some reason, this use of the word "lottery" caught my ear the other night. Several thoughts have came to mind.
First is what about the low-income people who don't win this lottery? What becomes of them? How many will apply and how many such house lots will be given out by this lottery? Just the idea of a lottery suggests that not everyone will win. What will the people who have lost their property and then lose this lottery do?
Second, does the federal government own land developable for housing in New Orleans? If so, where did it come from and why hasn't it been developed before?
Third, it seems to me that only certain people would be allowed to qualify for this. People would need the financial means to build homes that conform to federal zoning regulations as well as local, state, and federal building codes. New houses like that cost a lot of money to build and a lot of money to maintain over the years. Taxes alone would be much higher than the poor in New Orleans had been paying, let alone the cost of insurance required for any mortgage. Would the real poor of New Orleans have the means to cover these costs or would the lottery process filter out those who don't have the means?
One key, I suppose, is the president's use of the term "lower-income." Lower than what?
But the real puzzle in my mind is this idea about identifying "property in the region owned by the federal government." I would expect that the president's speech writer must have known what property the president was referring to. But I sure don't know. And he certainly didn't tell us. So all we can do is speculate what this property might be. I have one suggestion.
It seems natural to assume that poor people in the region, predominantly but not entirely poor black people, owned the property on which their homes were built. Maybe that's assuming too much, but whether they owned or rented in not the issue. The issue is whether or not the federal government will rebuild the homes damaged or destroyed by the flood so the original residents can repopulate the land. Will all of the poor of the region be allowed to live where they lived before if indeed that is what they wish to do? Will the federal government enable that to happen? Or will the federal government settle with these people and take over ownership of their property? Will federal seizure of the land be a condition of the settlements? Will the feds settle the claims by paying for the losses, then take over the land, raze the damaged homes, and then run this lottery to see who gets to build on that land?
My guess would be the second option rather than the first. My guess is that a Republican-run federal government would not repopulate poverty-stricken neighborhoods with the black poor who were displaced. My guess is that those people would be resettled in other parts of the country, their property seized, and more affluent people allowed to repopulate the land. Some of the reading I have done recently would suggest that this is an agenda which the well-off Republicans in the region have been contemplating for quite some time. All that was needed to carry out their plan was a large storm like Katrina.
Perhaps that is why Louisiana's Democrat governor was a little bit leery of turning the disaster over to federal management. Perhaps that's why she looks so unhappy when she appears in President Bush's photo-ops. All conjecture, mind you. Who am I to know what's really going on down there?
It's just conjecture. I hope I'm wrong about this.
All but eight months remaining of "four more years." What next, George? What next, Karl? What comes next?

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