A decade after Hurricane Katrina, red tape slows rebuilding

NEW ORLEANS -- More than a million people were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A decade later, some of them are still unable to return to their homes.

It's not just a matter of money, but of red tape.

While much of New Orleans is almost back to what it was before the storm, the Lower Ninth Ward is still rebuilding.

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Errol Joseph, 64, is a lifelong resident of this community. A general contractor, he helped rebuild dozens of his neighbors' homes.

"I had somewhere to live. We were able to rent a house," Joseph told CBS News. "So many people didn't have anywhere to go."

Years later, he is still frustrated by one final project: fixing his own home.

"That was my mistake, working on different people's houses, getting them in place," Joseph said. "When I had a lot of men working for me, within three months we would have been able to be in here."

After the waters receded, it took four years for Joseph to get the permits he needed. He took his savings, insurance payouts and federal funds to begin rebuilding.

But then, he says, inspectors told him he was not certified to elevate the house and his federal money could be at risk if he continued. That meant more delays.

Four years later, after the New York Times reported his story, he was finally allowed to continue -- but only if he hired a contractor who was certified to elevate his house.

But by that time, his money was gone.

"I'm in over $300,000 of- I don't want to say debt, but that's what I owe people, just about," Joseph said.

The Louisiana Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness told CBS News that "There was a program error with Mr. Joseph's case and he was given incorrect guidance. Going forward, it's our responsibility to help him and other home owners."

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Today, with volunteer help from LowerNine.org, the Josephs are finally piecing together their home. The group has rebuilt 75 houses in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Since Katrina, almost 90 percent of residents have returned to New Orleans. But in the Lower Ninth Ward, less than 40 percent of the residents have been able to rebuild.

Alden McDonald Jr., president and CEO of Liberty Bank, said the high cost of rebuilding is a major factor.

"A lot of them are without homes today," McDonald said, "priced out of their neighborhood but priced out of housing."

Joseph plans to move into his home in November. But he hopes it doesn't take another 10 years for the neighborhood to come back.

"I don't worry about this house. I worry about this community and showing the people what can happen," Joseph said.

His message for his old neighbors: "Come on back."