New housing program hailed as huge step toward recovery

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The scars of Katrina are still evident on houses that were battered by the monster storm.

"People have already been without homes for almost four years, so we need to get them back in their homes as soon as we can," said Rhonda Rhodes with the Hancock Housing Resource Center.

To help some of those families, on Tuesday, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Mississippi Development Authority launched the Coming Home Collaborative program.

"It's a $15 million agreement with MDA to reconstruct and rebuild 175 homes here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast," said Rich Westfall, President of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

"Which is really a unique, and very creative way of assisting so many families that are in need in our community," said Gulf Coast Housing Director Gerald Blessey.

Four housing resource centers will help out by screening the applicants, doing the repairs, and providing counseling to the homeowners so they can maintain their homes after the repairs are done. Qualified applicants will basically get a five-year forgivable loan to rehab their homes.

"We have 5,000 people waiting in our database right now," said Lori West with the IRD Gulf Coast Community Services Center.

On Monday, more than 3,000 brochures will be going out to the four housing resource centers that are partners in the program.  The brochures explain how the program works, who could be eligible, and there's a short application to fill out.

"It's something that I think MDA has never done," said Westfall. "I don't think the federal government has worked a program like this.  It's very unique and different. I think it's a wonderful thing for the coast, because it's a big step in our recovery."

The goal is to finish all the home repairs by December of next year.

"I'm very excited," said West and Rhodes.  "It's been a long time coming."

The money can only be used to rebuild homes on the existing footprint.  It also covers costs to elevate the homes. The deadline to apply for the program is May 29th. That's because everyone wants to get the process rolling as soon as possible.

Applications should be available Monday in the following locations:

  • Jackson County Housing Resource Center, 2836 Main St., Moss Point
  • Hope Coordination Center, 425 Division St., Biloxi
  • Gulf Coast Resource Center, 1223 30th Ave., Gulfport
  • Hancock Housing Resource Center, 412 U.S. 90, Suite 6, Bay St. Louis

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