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Ground Level Cottage-Style Homes Destroyed by Katrina Cannot be Replaced
Private Sector Rebuilding Not Affective

by Keith Burton - GCN  8/20/07

A Biloxi city official says the days of ground elevation cottage-style homes in Katrina-destroyed east Biloxi "are over."

Community Development Director Jerry Creel, appearing on WLOX TV, August 19, said that post-Katrina building regulations make such homes impossible to rebuild.

Small, wood-frame homes were part of the east Biloxi landscape for decades, many which had seen flooding in past hurricanes. But now, the new build-height regulations, velocity zones and other regulations will primarily force commercial development in the area. Nearly two years after Katrina, much of east Biloxi, also called Point Cadet, remains mostly empty. (More Here)

The area was densely filled with the small homes, many that had been in families for generations, prior to Katrina. Only a few remain nearly two years after the hurricane. The areas closest to the shoreline are being acquired for casino lands, but the interior property has little hope of casinos. (GCN Photo above right: Destroyed Point Cadet neighborhood-Sept. 2005. Katrina's winds stripped the trees of leaves)

Biloxi is not the only community where  small wood-frame homes were destroyed. Such homes were commonplace throughout much of the Coast that were most impacted by the hurricane.

Part of the problem in replacing homes is that these homes were built when home costs were much lower and built to a standard that cannot be done today at an affordable cost. Many of the homes would also not meet current building codes or lot size and set-back requirements, which kicked in after the homes were more than 50  percent or more destroyed. (GCN Photo left: Sept. 2005, Point Cadet home destroyed by Katrina)

The issue of "affordable" homes is one that also plagues the rebuilding. Many of the homes built since the hurricane cost more than $200,000. But even where developers say they are building homes, priced between $120,000 to $140,000, which they call "affordable homes," they are still too expensive. Many Coast residents who work in low paying service industry jobs, or those on fixed incomes, cannot afford a mortgage payment of $1,200 to $1,600 a month. It is simply too expensive. So far, no builder has announced homes to be constructed under $100,000 unless the home is a tiny Katrina cottage, which also does not meet most city building requirements.

A review of Coast area apartments by GCN recently found that most units rent for average starting price of nearly $800 for a one bedroom apartment and range up to $1,200 a month for two bedrooms. These rates are up $200 to $400 since Katrina. Small rental homes that before rented around $800 go for as much as $1,300 to $1,500 a month.

There has been some moderation in home and apartment rental prices in recent weeks as more home units become available, but the situation remains difficult for many people still living in FEMA trailers on the Coast. The need for government housing assistance remains and even with post-Katrina tax incentives for developers, real affordable housing solutions have not materialized.

Throughout the recovery, there has been talk that the private and business sector would play a major role in rebuilding the most devastated areas of the Katrina Disaster Zone. So far, those efforts have been a failure. What is becoming of the people that need affordable housing? They are leaving, creating employment shortages in businesses across the region.

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