Hano Residents Deserve a Strong Tenant Advocate

Source: HANO.org

Fierce public housing advocate Sharon Jasper and her supporters are furious over Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s planned removal of Jasper from the board of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO). They call the removal unwarranted and “illegal” because Cantrell failed to initially follow state law which requires a reason for the dismal be provided. Cantrell’s office subsequently claimed that Jasper neglected her duties and committed other unspecified acts of misconduct while in office. 

Jasper and supporters are asking the New Orleans City Council to override Cantrell’s decision. The Council will hear from Jasper and others including activist W.C. Johnson of Community United for Change at an appeal hearing Tuesday, November 29 at 11:30 a.m. Johnson is asking citizens who are concerned with Jasper’s planned removal to join him in the council chambers.     

The president of HANO’s Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), Jasper has spent many years speaking on behalf of public housing residents whose voices are sometimes ignored by HANO management. In 2010, she led a sit-in at the Columbia Parc realty office whose participants demanded the right to move into the new housing. Jasper is a former resident of the St. Bernard public housing development which was rebuilt as Columbia Parc. After the sit-in Jasper was accused of assaulting a Columbia Parc real estate agent and faced criminal charges. They were later dropped. 

“Oftentimes the only way we get HANO management to act is when Sharon brings our issues up,” said one supporter. For every decent HANO-certified landlord who maintains his or her property in good condition, there is another whose property does not meet minimum standards. HANO has not been focused enough on going after slumlords. That’s why Sharon’s work is so important.   

Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Section 8), low-income residents receive federal dollars to help offset the cost of renting privately owned properties. At least 18,000 vouchers are currently provided to families in Orleans Parish. With the redevelopment of many former public housing projects into mixed income housing including Iberville, St. Thomas, Lafitte and St. Bernard, less than 2,500 publicly owned housing units still exist.    

An early pioneer among women active in public housing issues, Jasper has usually been considered “a pain in the neck” by public officials that have to deal with her. But to the residents of public housing that are forced to live with rats, roaches, mold and mildew Jasper is God-sent. Jasper took the place of another uppity housing activist Andreanecia Morris who continues to wage a campaign about the need for additional affordable housing for New Orleans families and single parents. Black women who have children currently hold a significant number of vouchers. 

HANO was established in 1936 through the Louisiana Housing Act, just one year before the Federal Housing Act in 1937. New Orleans was the first city in the U.S. to receive federal funds under the 1937 Federal Housing Act. By 1940 the city secured $30 million to construct public housing, according to Paper Monuments. Housing current board members include New Orleans Police Department officer Jeffrey Vappie who has close ties to Cantrell and is under investigation for payroll fraud, Carol George Johnson, Isabel Barrios, Avery Foret, Percy Manson, Monika McKay, Kim Piper, and Paul Richard.  

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