Fudge on HUD debt relief for homeowners impacted by Hurricane Katrina: ‘We ended a nightmare’

Secretary Marcia Fudge tells theGrio that the latest action by HUD, which takes effect in April 2023, is about “equity and making things right.”

The Biden-Harris administration has moved to provide debt relief for Louisiana homeowners impacted by Hurricane Katrina nearly 20 years after the deadly natural disaster left mostly Black communities devastated.

“We ended a nightmare that has been going on for almost 18 years,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge told theGrio about the corrective action taken to help thousands of Katrina survivors who rebuilt their homes and their lives after the August 2005 tragedy.

An aerial image shows homes and the the Industrial Canal along Jourdan Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana on August 31, 2021 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

While on the ground in Louisiana to announce the end of the Hurricane Katrina-era Road Home Program, Fudge said during an interview: “This is one of the most significant things I believe I have done as secretary of HUD.”

The federally-funded program that was administered by the state of Louisiana provided grant money to help Louisiana residents rebuild or sell their homes that were severely damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Disbursements for each homeowner grant will be capped at $30,000.

Fudge said the latest action by HUD, which takes effect in April 2023, is about “equity and making things right.”

HUD officials say the debt forgiveness for the Road Home Program will potentially impact up to 3,300 Louisiana homeowners. In the aftermath of Katrina, almost 130,000 Louisiana residents received more than $9 billion through the Road Home Program. 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge speaks during the Freedman’s Bank Forum in the Cash Room at the Treasury Department on October 04, 2022 in Washington, DC. According to the department, the forum is focused on “efforts to increase economic opportunity and growth for communities of color and address the persistent drivers of the racial wealth divide.” (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Bush administration provided much of the billions of dollars to impacted homeowners. Former Bush HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told theGrio that the administration wanted to focus their recovery efforts on homeowners; however, Bush officials later discovered that those most affected by the hurricane were renters.

“Many of the people lived in subpar homes that they were renting,” said former Secretary Johnson. Though the recent move by HUD appears to be for homeowners and not renters, Johnson said he supports Secretary Fudge’s efforts to try to “make those persons whole.”

Today, Biden HUD officials feel the debt forgiveness will give impacted families much-needed relief and financial freedom. It would allow them the ability to make repairs to their homes, or even sell their property without the worry about liens or payment plans. 

As Jackson notes, “At some point in time. You’ve got to forgive those debts; otherwise, it will stay on the books.”

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson announces his resignation March 31, 2008 at HUD headquarters in Washington, DC. Jackson’s resignation is expected to complicate the Bush administration’s ability to make efffective progress on the current housing crisis plaguing the U.S. economy. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The debt relief from the Road Home Program is an economic win for those impacted, says Secretary Fudge.

“People are saying now we can get our houses finally fixed … a lot of them never did the kind of renovation and rehabilitation that they could have because they didn’t have the money all these years,” she explained. “Many did not want to do it because they never knew whether they would keep their home.” 

Secretary Fudge is slated to make another announcement later this week in HUD’s continued efforts to expand homeownership; however, she was tight-lipped on details.

“Home is the thing that creates generational wealth,” she said. “And without it, most people have nothing.”

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!