WHO WE ARE
Established in 2006 to address the needs expressed by residents trying to return home after the levees failed, the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association (L9WHA) is a resident-run non-profit organization. Our mission is to build the future of the Lower 9th Ward through affordable homeownership and resident-driven redevelopment. We fulfill our mission through personalized case management services, public policy recommendations and community action.
Before the flood, the Lower 9th Ward was a vibrant, hard-working community. Children grew up surrounded by aunts and cousins and grandparents, living in family homes that were passed down from generation to generation. In a neighborhood that was 98% African American, 59% of families owned their homes and more than half of them had no mortgage. Thirteen years later, this is the foundation we continue to build on.
We are also building on a foundation of success in returning displaced homeowners to their homes.
To achieve this, we used our model of uncovering problems at the grassroots and developing policy-level solutions. In particular, we discovered that homeowners were unable to return home because government rebuilding grants were calculated using a discriminatory formula that paid more in wealthy, white areas than lower-income, African-American ones. We organized a coalition of housing groups and led a five-year, grassroots campaign to change state policy and release millions of dollars for
We then took these policy changes back to the neighborhood. When we met Tonya Boyd-Cannon and her husband, John, the home they bought as a young couple was gone and their dreams for their family rested on the vacant lot where it once stood. Their absence left a hole in the fabric of our community. Tonya is a soulful singer who leads a choir and teaches music to children. John, a tuba player, was a founder of the Free Agents Brass Band after Hurricane Katrina. Under the new policies, we were able to secure $132,696 in federal funds to rebuild their home from scratch.
Now their daughter practices her singing and their son plays his trombone in their own home, absorbing the rhythms of
New Orleans like generations of musicians before them.
WHAT WE DO
Since our founding, the L9WHA has been an outspoken leader in community redevelopment and homeowner rebuilding efforts. We have been involved in successful campaigns for the rebuilding of public buildings, such as the Sanchez Community Center and the Martin Luther King, Jr. High School. We are currently organizing against the widening of the Industrial Canal that has already done so much harm to our neighborhood.
We also led a five-year grassroots, state-wide effort to convince the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the State of Louisiana to release tens of millions of dollars in federal funds for displaced homeowners. Due to our efforts,
homeowners across Louisiana qualified for additional funds to complete their homes. In our own neighborhood, in the past two years alone, we helped 22 families complete their homes or begin construction, leveraging $1,996,964—money which would have been left sitting at HUD without our work.
Isolated from the City of New Orleans by the Industrial Canal and located on
cheap land once considered “back of town,” the Lower 9th Ward was built
by free people of color and recent, poor immigrants in the mid-1800s.
Residents and public records point to a pervasive pattern of neglect by
the City of New Orleans ever since. But they also point to 140 years of
civic activism, from establishing mutual aid and benevolent associations
to assist newly freed men and women, to fighting for basic services
long-enjoyed in the rest of the city, to leading successful citywide voter
registration and school integration efforts during the Jim Crow era.
Then, on August 29, 2005, the world saw the façade of American prosperity
ripped off. In the richest society on earth, disfavored citizens sat on their
roofs for days waiting for rescue from the floodwaters. On that day, the
Lower 9th Ward came to represent our nation’s failure to take care of its people.
Thirteen years later, the people of the Lower 9th Ward are still waiting. But rather than receiving help, they have confronted barriers—National Guard troops that kept them from their homes long after other neighborhoods had reopened, a city that shut off their water for the express purpose of improving water service elsewhere, a state grant formula that paid more in wealthy, white neighborhoods than in lower-income, African-American ones.
thirteen years later, as a direct result of these obstacles, only 39% of the population is back, compared with a repopulation rate for the rest of the city of 89%. Yet before the flood, the 9, as its residents call it, was a vibrant, hard-working community. Children grew up surrounded by aunts and cousins and grandparents, living in family homes that had been passed down from generation to generation. In a neighborhood that was 98% African American, 59% of families owned their homes and 56% of homeowners had no mortgage. Now these families have lost the asset it took their whole lives to build, the place they were going to live in until they died and pass on to their children, the foundation of their family’s economic security.
This is a story that repeats itself over and over again in African-American neighborhoods, from the demolition of homes during urban renewal to discrimination against black veterans after World War II while returning white soldiers were buying houses using GI Bill loans. And over and over again, the lasting effects of this loss reach into the next generation. Even today, the legacy of discrimination in GI Bill programs can be seen in the wealth gap between whites and non-whites, particularly in lower rates of homeownership.
In the 9, as its residents call it, there is still a chance to break this pattern. In large part due to the persistent advocacy of the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association, HUD has released millions of dollars for grants to displaced homeowners. But to get these grants, homeowners have to navigate the maze of the state bureaucracy. Our House the 9 Program is therefore committed to seeing that all homeowners have advocates by their side to make sure that this time they get the funds they’re entitled to. This time, with our help, they will not be left waiting on the rooftops.
Dan Baum, writing in The New Yorker, further detailed the barriers faced in the immediate aftermath of the levee failures:
From the earliest days of the crisis, the Lower Ninth Ward seemed to be in a special category. No other neighborhood, for example, was cordoned off by troops. When outside help arrived in force, six days after the storm, the National Guard roadblocked the bridges leading into the Lower Nine. Of all those people who were toughing it out in attics across the flooded city, only those of the Lower Nine were forbidden to return if they waded out for supplies. Though eighty percent of New Orleans was inundated, the city’s homeland security director, Terry Ebbert, appeared to single out the Lower Nine when he told a reporter that “nothing out there can be saved at all,” and Mayor Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr., said, inaccurately, “I don’t think it can ever be what it was, because it’s the lowest-lying area.” Ebbert and Nagin were exhausted, stunned by the vastness of the destruction, and lacking solid information. But nobody seriously proposed ditching Lakeview, an upscale white neighborhood that had borne the force of another breach, that of the Seventeenth Street Canal, and lay under even deeper water. Some bluntly welcomed an opportunity to abandon the Lower Ninth Ward. “I don’t want those people from the Lower Ninth Ward back,” Robby Robinson, the owner of French Quarter Candles, said. “I don’t think any businessperson does. They didn’t contribute anything to this city.”
Transparency & Accounablity
As a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit serving the public, and a member of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations, the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association honors nationally recognized best practices for transparency and accountability. We engage in ongoing efforts to openly convey information to the public, our Board, individual donors and funders regarding our mission, activities and decision-making processes.
Tax-exempt nonprofits are required, upon request, to provide copies of the three most recently filed annual information returns (IRS Form 990) and the organization's application for tax-exemption. To demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability and to make it easier for those seeking information to view these documents, the Lower 9th Ward Homeownership Association has made our application for tax exemption, our tax returns and our policies and procedures available below.
If you have any questions, please contact us for further information.
Our Policies & Procedures