Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

If you build it, where will you house the workers?

The reconstruction of New Orleans has hit another snag: There’s not enough housing, temporary or otherwise, for all the workers that are needed for the rebuilding as well as for the firms that are trying to get started again. And guess who’s being blamed for it?

The housing problems, made worse by what some claim is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s slow response to install temporary trailers, have blocked many New Orleans residents from returning to jobs in businesses that are struggling to come back, local officials and business owners say.

“I’ve been trying to start up and run under the worst circumstances,” said Elizabeth Turnbull, owner of Turnbull Bakeries Inc., a commercial bakery that before the storm had 80 people making Melba toast and fresh bread crumbs for customers around the country.

Many of her employees lived in the Irish Channel neighborhood in Uptown, where their homes were flooded. Today, they are scattered from Atlanta to Houston to Dallas.

“I have 29-year, 25-year, 20-year employees who want to come back, but they don’t have homes,” Turnbull said.

Nearly four weeks ago, she had a vacant lot at the bakery readied with power poles to accept a dozen trailers. And she applied to a state office working to dispatch trailers supplied by FEMA to businesses that need to house workers.

“I’m still waiting,” she said. “They’ve been totally unresponsive.”

It’s almost comforting to know that some things don’t change, isn’t it? And here’s the best part: FEMA’s continued screwups have undermined the one decisive thing George Bush did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Initially, officials worried that post-Katrina wages would be low. “That hasn’t happened,” said state Rep. Charmaine Marchand, D-New Orleans. “We have some of the best wages we’ve ever had.”

Yes, it’s hard to hard to hire people at substandard wages when workers are in high demand. As it happens, the infamous Gulf Coast Wage Cut was beaten back by sustained political pressure and the fact that it was an embarrassingly bad idea, but it’s still nice to see that market forces continue to apply in the real world.

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts


  1. Kent says:

    Here in Waco there is a big mobile home manufacturer out near the intersection of I-35 and Lake Shore Drive. I drive by it nearly every day. Last week their entire lot was covered with brand new white single-wide budget looking mobile homes. Basically just white boxes with a couple windows and a door. They all had signs taped to the end that said FEMA. Today they are all gone and the lot is nearly empty except for the few higher-end mobile homes still there that have features like color and bay windows.

    I imagine some of these mobile home builders here in Texas are making a FORTUNE building these FEMA shacks. No doubt their ties to the Republican party and Bush Administration go pretty deep.

  2. Kent says:

    To follow-up, I gotta wonder if there is any politics involved in where and how the FEMA shacks are being distributed. Do the Republican areas of Mississippi and Alabama get first dibs? I wouldn’t put anything past this bunch.

  3. If you build it, where will you house the wor…

    If you build it, where will you house the wor…