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Mississippi Alternative Housing Program Update
From: Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal    Filed 2/14/07  GCN

The Governor's Office is currently finalizing plans and policies for the Mississippi Alternative Housing Program, which is intended to exhibit a better way to deliver emergency housing following major natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. FEMA will allocate up to $281 million for the construction of three alternative housing units: the Mississippi Cottage, Park Model and Green Mobile. 

Approximately 5,000-7,000 FEMA-provided travel trailers located in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties will be replaced with the new units. An application process is currently being developed for current travel trailer tenants interested in moving into an alternative model. Informational meetings for potential tenants will be held in late February, and application announcements will be made through local media and the Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal website.

The state plans to begin placing the new housing on the ground in June 2007. Design specifications for the housing units are currently being refined, and modular builders will receive bidding information for the program within the next few weeks. The Governor's Office will hold a pre-bid conference for interested manufacturers.

In March 2006, Governor Haley Barbour proposed a pilot program to Congress that would provide more temporary housing options for the next major natural disaster and remove Mississippians from the cramped conditions of FEMA travel trailers. Congress appropriated $400 million for the Alternative Housing Pilot Program, which solicited competitive proposals from five Gulf Coast states. Out of 29 proposals submitted from the five states, Mississippi's three proposals were ranked #1, #2 and #5. The state's top two proposals will receive up to $281 million in funding. Click here to read FEMA's press release announcing the project awards.

For information and updates concerning the Mississippi Alternative Housing Program, please visit www.governorbarbour.com/recovery/alternativehousing.htm.

Temporary Housing Program Extension

While the state is planning a new approach to house those affected by disasters, FEMA has recently announced an extension of its temporary housing program. Residents living in FEMA-provided travel trailers and mobile homes now have until August 31 to find permanent housing. Governor Barbour had requested an extension from the original deadline of February 28.

Currently, approximately 80,000 Mississippians are housed in 29,000 FEMA-provided travel trailers and mobile homes.

Homeowner Grant Program

Mississippi has delivered more than 10,000 grants under an unprecedented program to help homeowners along the Coast recover and rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

"This is a milestone," Governor Barbour said. "It means that approximately 75 percent of south Mississippi families who qualified under Phase I of our Homeowner Assistance Grant Program have received their checks, and this will help them get on with their lives." As of February 7, 10,303 Mississippi families have received grants. In Louisiana, a similar federally-funded grant program has distributed fewer than 400 checks.

"With unprecedented resources and flexibility from the federal government, the hard work of the people associated with state and local government, and most importantly, because of the spirit and determination of the people on the Coast and in the private sector, we are making progress. There is still much to be done, and the pace is still too slow to suit me, but we are making progress," Governor Barbour said.

Under the grant program, a first-of-its-kind endeavor, recipients have legally agreed that any rebuilt structure on that property must have flood insurance, be elevated out of danger, and built to the International Residential Building Code.

In total, closing packets have been sent to 13,538 households, and program administrators expect that about 14,000 homeowners will ultimately qualify for assistance under Phase I of the program.

Phase II of the comprehensive program, which is targeted to low and moderate income homeowners regardless of insurance or flood zone status, was approved by HUD shortly before Christmas. Grant notification packets to eligible applicants will be distributed in the first quarter of this year and the financial counseling and closing process will begin at that point.

New Director of Office of Recovery and Renewal

Governor Barbour has named Bryan McDonald to serve as director of the Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal.

"The worst natural disaster in American history left Mississippi with a huge chore. Bryan has the experience, knowledge and ability to help us recover and rebuild, and I know he is the right man for the job at the right time," Governor Barbour said. "I am very pleased Bryan has accepted this important assignment and confident he will continue to serve the citizens of Mississippi well."

Prior to joining the Governor's staff, McDonald, 42, served as Mississippi's Director of Recovery Accounting Oversight, where he worked to provide Katrina assistance to governmental and non-profit applicants under the Stafford Act, one of the primary federal laws governing disaster recovery efforts. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Mississippi. His experience includes working at a large international accounting firm as a C.P.A and 10 years experience with a law firm.

McDonald has strong ties with the Gulf Coast through his wife Michelle, a Gulfport native, whose family rode out Hurricanes Camille and Katrina from the same home.  McDonald and his wife, along with their two children live in Madison, where they are active in school and church activities.

Former Office of Recovery and Renewal director Gavin Smith and chief policy analyst Jae Park have stepped down from their positions to assume prominent management roles in the Mississippi Alternative Housing Program. Since first becoming involved immediately after Katrina, Smith and Park have contributed greatly to Mississippi's recovery effort.

Mortgage Revenue Bond Program

The Mississippi Home Corporation has announced that homebuyers affected by Hurricane Katrina may qualify for low mortgage interest rates under the Mortgage Revenue Bond Program.

A mortgage interest rate of 5.70% will be available to those purchasing homes in Jackson, Harrison, Hancock, Pearl River, Stone and George counties and to homebuyers directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. The program also includes a cash advance of 3% of the loan amount to assist homebuyers in paying for down payment and closing costs.

Parties interested in the Mortgage Revenue Bond Program should contact MHC directly at 601-718-INFO (4636) or at www.mshomecorp.com.
 

Public Housing Funding
 

The five public housing authorities on the Gulf Coast sustained severe damage from Hurricane Katrina, and great strides have been made to repair and rebuild this housing sector. The state has set aside $100 million in CDBG funds appropriated by Congress to rebuild and repair these housing authorities. The Mississippi Development Authority recently announced how the funds will be divided among the five housing authorities. For more information on this announcement, click here.

 

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also involved in repairing public housing units. HUD will spend $27.3 million for public housing repairs in Mississippi, including $24 million for Gulfport-based Mississippi Regional Housing Authority No. VIII. For more information, click here.

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