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Governor Announces Project to Extend Study of Gulf Coast Housing Needs
From: Office of the Governor        Filed 10/24/06  GCN

(JACKSON, Mississippi) * Governor Haley Barbour announced today that the National Association of REALTORS® and the Mississippi Association of REALTORS® have donated $155,000 to enable the RAND Corporation to extend its study of affordable housing needs along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi.

"From the earliest days after Hurricane Katrina, it was obvious that housing for displaced coast residents would be the dominant issue for a long time," Governor Barbour said. "Many organizations and government at all levels are putting extraordinary efforts into improving the availability and affordability of housing and I certainly welcome specific recommendations that enhance the strategic rebuilding and renewal plan that is under way."

The study by the RAND Gulf States Policy Institute (RGSPI) will focus on low- and moderate-income housing in Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, which sustained about 90 percent of the serious damage Mississippi suffered from Hurricane Katrina.

"This project will help private companies and public organizations gain the insight they'll need to effectively continue rebuilding in Mississippi, and to provide the Governor's office with economic expertise to help it craft the sound policies that will revitalize the housing market and the state's economy," said Thomas M. Stevens, National Association of REALTORS® President from Vienna, Va.

MAR President Pam Beard, Vicksburg, and Henry Ray, 2006 NAR Vice President & Liaison to Government Affairs, Birmingham, Ala., joined RAND President and CEO James A. Thomson in a meeting with Governor Barbour in the governor's office today to discuss the new study.

"RAND is committed to providing the objective research and analysis that will help Mississippi rebuild badly needed affordable housing," Thomson said.

The RGSPI study will seek to provide the state with answers to the following questions:

* What was the housing market like in the three counties before Katrina hit?

* How much damage did the hurricane cause to housing in the three counties, and what will it cost to repair the damage?

* How much of the housing recovery can be accomplished by the market itself, and how many special programs will be needed to assist the recovery?

* What policy options are available to help in the affordable housing market recovery?

 "We are so honored to be partners in this important project that will guide our leaders as they develop and implement solutions to the current housing crisis along our coast," said Beard, who spearheaded the initiative on behalf of MAR. 

RGSPI, based in Jackson, was created in late 2005 to develop a long-term vision and strategy to help build a better future for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

RAND, a nonprofit research organization, joined with these seven universities to create RGSPI: Jackson State University and the University of Southern Mississippi in Mississippi; Tulane University, the University of New Orleans and Xavier University in Louisiana; and Tuskegee University and the University of Southern Alabama in Alabama.

RGSPI issued a study titled "Rebuilding Housing along the Mississippi Coast: Ideas for Ensuring an Adequate Supply of Affordable Housing," in June. That study warned that tens of thousands of Mississippi families whose homes were damaged or destroyed by hurricanes last year will have a hard time finding replacement housing in the state unless leaders in government and the private sector take action to accelerate the rebuilding of affordable housing.

The funding to continue the study is that latest effort from Mississippi REALTORS® to promote post-Katrina housing opportunity and assist Mississippians directly affected by the storm. Since September 2005, MAR has dispersed more than $3 million in relief funds to over 3,000 families, purchased building supplies to aid in reconstruction efforts led by the Lutheran-Episcopal Disaster Response and funded a program designed to assist with repairs to rental properties and get more back on the market. All of this was possible due to the generous contributions made by NAR and REALTORS® across the country to the Mississippi REALTOR Hurricane Relief Fund.

The Mississippi Association of REALTORS® is the business advocate for Mississippi real estate professionals, representing 6,000 residential and commercial real estate professionals active in all phases of brokerage, development, property management and appraisal.

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