So it looks like East New Orleans will end up looking like a mini-Houston, on stilts...
New York Times: Thousands of Demolitions Near, New Orleans Braces for New Pain
As much as I'd like to believe that Katrina is an opportunity for a reborn, sustainable, socially integrated New Orleans, I fear that the chances of an affordable 1900-era shotgun house building industry shooting up overnight are slim to nill. My guess is this: the well-off 10% of homeowners can afford to save their houses, and the rest trade in their rotting, waterlogged home for a vinyl-sided tract house on stilts. Like the crap they put up in shore towns since the 70s. Am I just being pessimistic, or do people really see money falling out of the sky to build anything but the lowest common denomenator of status quo sprawl-on-smaller-lots?
Devra Goldstein, a New Orleans building inspector, looked over a home Wednesday. About 30,000 inspections had been done by midweek.
City officials say that even when neighborhoods like the Ninth Ward are rebuilt, they will look very different, particularly given the staggering cost of trying to return them to something resembling their earlier state.
"People are going to be upside down when they look at the cost of rebuilding," said Greg Meffert, chief information officer for the City of New Orleans and a top aide to Mayor C. Ray Nagin.
But preservationists say that money must be found to rebuild some of the most historic residential structures and that the demolition process must proceed cautiously.
"When you have a city that has suffered an incredible disaster, you can't overlook any economic resource, and the historic buildings are an economic resource," said Patricia Gay, executive director of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, the leading local preservation group. "This type of thing is the flesh and blood of the city."
$120 a square foot? Anybody in the renovation business thinking of relocating?Federal flood insurance guidelines will also require that thousands of damaged homes in floodplains be elevated by a foot or more, a fearsomely expensive proposition for which there is limited federal assistance. If the city allows those homes to be rebuilt without being elevated, it could be cut off from the National Flood Insurance Program.
Finally, with homeowners all over the city desperately scrambling for contractors, the price of renovations has quadrupled to nearly $120 a square foot. On top of an existing mortgage, the economics of reconstruction quickly become prohibitive, even for yellow-tagged houses.
"New construction is a lot cheaper than renovation," said Jay Williams, a local insurance agent.