The scheme to flush the remaining poor out of New Orleans and grab their land is quickly moving into a new phase with a lockout of public housing tenants.

Recently, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson said that he is opposed to rebuilding the Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

As a follow-up, HUD officials have imposed a complete lockout of public housing tenants in New Orleans, forcing thousands out of their homes. In addition, New Orleans officials are now quickly moving to evict the thousands of remaining poor people from the city, and the eviction legal battles began Oct. 25.

In Lake Charles, tens of thousands also face eviction by the landlords who want to double the rents on the potential new tenants who would replace the latest evictees.

Making matters worse, city officials are seriously considering use
of an ancient law known as “usufruct” as a means to steal land from poor people in numerous districts of New Orleans so that others may profit by their loss.

Usufruct is a centuries-old legal concept that gives a person the right to use and profit from property that belongs to someone else. In Louisiana – with its unusual legal system founded on Napoleonic code rather than English common law – usufruct can apply to private property rights.

New Orleans city officials say, “You are not going to rebuild New Orleans unless you are able to get government access to private property,” an official said. “If government does not solve that problem, everything else is just talk. It is foolish to believe otherwise.”

There are believed to be at least 100,000 homes in New Orleans damaged to the point that they are not currently habitable, and city officials want to profit by gaining control of these properties.

If the land grab is completed, the rebuilding of New Orleans would not benefit the existing poor landowners. They are in danger of losing their property.

“With thousands of New Orleans residents facing possible eviction, a judge on Oct. 24 temporarily blocked landlords from forcing out tenants unless hearings are held close to home,” the Associated Press reports.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco was set to lift a post-hurricane ban on evictions Tuesday, and 8,000 to 10,000 tenants who had not yet returned to New Orleans faced the loss of their homes and possessions.

Attorney Bill Quigley of the Loyola University law school, the same attorney who represents Father Jean Juste and other political prisoners in Haiti, filed suit in Gonzales, a town about 60 miles from New Orleans, to move the eviction hearings into the city.

Since the hurricane, New Orleans court headquarters had been moved to Gonzalez. The judge agreed with Quigley that many tenants facing eviction would be unable to travel to Gonzalez and thus would be denied their right to due process.

“They are going to have to physically move the eviction hearings back to New Orleans,” said Quigley.