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On the Record

President Bush’s Plan to Rebuild (Gulf Coast)

Redeveloping Gulf Coast states

RAY SUAREZ: Bruce Katz, what did you make of the speech?

BRUCE KATZ: Well, like Professor Wilson, I was very pleased that the president focused on the deep racial and class divide in New Orleans. But to be frank, I was very surprised by the redevelopment initiatives that he put on the table which I felt fell far short of what’s going to be needed to build a competitive healthy and viable city to break up the concentrations of poverty, to break up those federal enclaves of poverty which existed in the city and to really give these low income residents more choice and opportunity.

I think the urban homesteading initiative that he put on the table handing over land, essentially –

RAY SUAREZ: Gives people promise to build on it.

BRUCE KATZ: Exactly – is a fairly marginal response to what is a scale of devastation that we have not seen in this country for some period of time. Where is the land? How are people earning less than $10,000 going to support the building of a home, the payment of a mortgage, the maintenance of the home? Is this going to lock in some of the same patterns of poverty that we have seen before?

The fact is that we know how to create economically integrated communities in this country. And I was surprised that the president did not call on what is really the most sophisticated housing finance and development system in the world to come to the table and to contribute the tax credits with other incentives to build a completely different New Orleans.

RAY SUAREZ: So the same set of proposals that Alison Fraser was a little bothered by because they promised as much as it takes for as long as it takes, you say don’t go far enough?

BRUCE KATZ: I don’t think they go far enough. The question is not whether we rebuild New Orleans, but how do we do it. And I agree with her, that we have to do it in a fiscally responsible way. But we know how to do this. And I don’t think what we have done yet has really tapped the depth of expertise in this country, particularly with regard to the rebuilding effort.

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