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New Orleans to Raze Public Housing

The meeting, the last of a series of required "consultation meetings" with residents, appeared to be a formality. Babers thanked each person for his or her comments but made none himself. Nor did he answer any of the questions put to him. Residents called the process a sham.

HUD spokeswoman Donna White said public comments from the meetings will be reviewed by HUD in Washington, which can accept, reject or change the demolition plan.

The plans for redeveloping public housing in New Orleans resemble efforts in recent years in cities across the country. In response to critics who have said some of the old complexes deteriorated because they concentrated and isolated the poor, the replacement developments are typically less dense and only partly devoted to subsidized housing.

But in post-Katrina New Orleans, the idea of demolishing units that might be rehabilitated, and replacing them with fewer units, infuriates advocates of the poor.

They point to the former St. Thomas project in the city, which was originally designed to house approximately 1,500 families. Its demolition, in 2002, has been followed by the construction of 296 apartments, 122 of them for low-income families. When the project is completed, it is supposed to have 1,100 new residential units, but critics say far too few of the poor displaced by the demolition will ever be able to live there.

State Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) scoffed at the underlying logic of the new developments, saying it is audacious to blame residents' misery on the concentration of poverty in New Orleans. At a similar meeting last month, he said: "It was always concentrated. Because you can't get people to make beds and clean hotels if you educate them well and they expect a decent pay."

Whoriskey reported from Miami.

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