HUD Secretary comes to South Mississippi

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - On the last leg of his trip, the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, stopped through East Biloxi for a press conference at the Hope VI housing community.  Nearly $4 million in HUD money went into Hope VI.  It was 90 percent complete when Hurricane Katrina hit.

"Hope VI wasn't about just building back more public housing; it was about building back new communities," Donovan said.

As the conference progressed, Donovan announced a rule change addressing a problem many have faced as they've tried to move into homes.

"I'm happy to announce today that we have made a change in the duplication of benefits and rules to allow MIssissippi to get the flexibility it needs to turn temporary housing into permanent housing," Donovan said.

According to Gulf Coast Housing Director Gerald Blessey, those who have already received federal assistance will no longer have that money subtracted from any future housing assistance.  As for those who rent homes, the Secretary said an additional 2400 vouchers are coming to Mississippi, bringing the total to 6,000.  He's pushed for many of those vouchers to come to the coast.

"This trip for me has really been about recovery getting completed as quickly as possible," Donovan said.

Since Donovan was in Biloxi, he addressed a project that's faced challenges moving forward, the Santa Maria Del Mar apartment complex for retirees, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi.

HUD fell under criticism after the Secretary for Catholic Charities, Greg Crapo, said the development was being forced to follow rules similar properties did not have to abide by.

"We've been engaged in conversations with the congressman's office, with catholic charities and we believe we have resolved the most significant issue there."

Donovan said there is one additional issue to resolve.  However, he said the situation should be worked out in the next few days.

Secretary Donovan also stopped by New Orleans Thursday, where he took part in a groundbreaking at a public housing complex.

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.