HUD Secretary Ben Carson tours New Orleans public housing developments

NEW ORLEANS -- U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson toured two public housing developments in New Orleans today, including the Bienville Basin development in Treme and Columbia Parc on St. Bernard Avenue.

Carson was in town to learn more about the public-private partnerships that have allowed these post-Katrina housing developments to come to life.

Columbia Parc boasts an early learning center, a community medical clinic, playgrounds, a charter school and several other social programs, all geared toward making its low-income residents more self-sufficient.

Carson called the Columbia Parc development a “perfect example of public-private partnerships and what can be done.”

Asked about the budget deficit and public housing money that could be affected by steep cuts, Carson said, “There’s a lot of anxiety about budgets, and there probably should be because we have a $20 trillion national deficit. A lot of programs people fear are going away aren’t going away … It’s much more costly to not help people than to help people.”

Noel Khalil, developer of Columbia Parc, told reporters that mixed-income housing, as opposed to 100 percent low-income housing, is a proven model for success.

“100 percent low income is known not to work,” he said. “Crime went down. This is one of the safest developments in New Orleans. (With Section 8 vouchers), we’re giving them more mobility, just like you and me.”

Carson said the goal of HUD moving forward is to give low-income residents choices.

“It’s not to say, ‘You have to live here.’ We want to provide complete communities," he said.