State officials say a federal appeals court ruling in a lawsuit involving the Louisiana Road Home hurricane relief program will allow them to move ahead with grants for about 120 homeowners.
On April 8, a federal appeals court in Washington vacated a preliminary injunction in a discrimination case filed by two fair-housing organizations in New Orleans, along with five African-American homeowners. The lawsuit argued that it was unfair for the program to base grant amounts on pre-Katrina market value, as opposed to actual rebuilding costs. The plaintiffs say African-Americans are more likely than whites to have their Road Home grants based upon the pre-storm market value of their homes, rather than the estimated cost to repair damage.
The injunction in the case had kept the state Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit from paying some grants from the Road Home program, a state-run, federally funded program that paid for repair or purchase of some homes damaged by hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Statements from both sides in the case indicate they are trying to reach a settlement in the lawsuit, filed against federal and state authorities.
“Obviously we’re pleased that the court acted on our request to remove the injunction against the state, which was preventing us from accessing millions of dollars meant to help Road Home applicants,” Louisiana Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said. He said the state and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development are working to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs.
“We are pleased to hear that state officials share our commitment to reaching a resolution that benefits families without the need for further litigation. And we pledge to continue working with state and federal officials toward that end,” said a statement released on behalf of the five black homeowners, the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and the National Fair Housing Alliance.