The announcement that the national labor group ALF-CIO will invest $700 million in the rebuilding of New Orleans already has developers, nonprofits and other organizations lining up with redevelopment plans to put that money to use.
In June, when the Nagin administration invited bids to redevelop 2,500 blighted houses the city owns due to unpaid taxes, more than 60 developers stepped forward to bid on groups of dozens or hundreds of them at a time. Many of these developers are pulling on funds from the AFL-CIO to return the properties to commerce. Most of these properties are in Mid-City, Treme and Central City.
NEWSBEAT: Union bankrolls renovationsAFL-CIO’s investment will be used to finance the construction and restoration of affordable housing and to build mixed-use commercial developments, hotels and medical facilities in the New Orleans area. The money will come from the AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust, which draws money from the pension funds of union members and invests it to grow the trust.
AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said his group’s program is intended to spur more investment in New Orleans. The Gulf Coast program is modeled after one the labor organization created in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The group’s initial investment of $750 million in New York is now worth $2.2 billion, the group reported.
“Labor is in solidarity with the citizens of New Orleans,” Sweeney said at a press conference announcing the project. “We are here to do our part to rebuild and reunite this great city. We hope business and financial institutions will follow our lead as they did when we stepped forward after 9/11 in New York City.”
Projects financed by the AFL-CIO initiative require 100% union labor, a model the group used in 2003 when its investment funds financed the construction of the Loews New Orleans Hotel in downtown New Orleans in 2003. To help build the local skilled labor pool, the AFL-CIO is establishing a Gulf Coast Workforce Development Project to provide job skill training for residents wishing to return to the area.
In addition to funding housing, the AFL-CIO investments include $100 million in financing for economic development, such as hotels and other commercial real estate projects; $250 million to support home ownership for city employees and union members; and $100 million to fund construction of hospitals and health-care facilities. – I.M.