Biloxi Housing Authority exceeds housing goals, but still has challenges

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Affordable housing growth in Biloxi has exceeded expectations. Two years ago, the Biloxi Housing Authority set out to increase the number of affordable homes throughout the city, especially in east Biloxi where Hurricane Katrina wiped out entire neighborhoods.

The goal in 2007 was to create 1,577 units including senior citizen housing, apartment rentals, private home sales and Section Eight assistance. Since then, the Housing Authority has added 1,768 units.

Cadet Point Senior Village is an example of the work done to bring more affordable housing to the city.

"We feel real good about it, to be perfectly honest," Biloxi Housing Authority Director Bobby Hensley said. "We do have a bunch of people on our wait list still looking for housing."

At a community meeting about the state of affordable housing, Hensley said 995 people are on the Housing Authority's waiting list. To speed up the process of getting new units, the Housing Authority changed its strategy from constructing its own housing to buying new properties from private developers. That's what the agency did with McDonnell Avenue apartments, and now two similar projects are under consideration.

Crown Hill is on Three Rivers Road with more than 300 single family homes and Gulfwatch is a 98 unit development on Pass Road near Beauvoir Road.

Housing Director Bobby Hensley said negotiations are underway to purchase Seashore Oaks on the beach.

"It's 227 units there. If we're successful in acquiring it, we plan to take 82 of the units and make them assisted living for low income people," Hensley said. "We will have 80 units of housing for low income people which will be independent housing. There is a market that we feel we're missing where people are in need of housing for elderly."

Hensley said meeting the need for housing is becoming more difficult because federal Section Eight funding is not keeping up with higher rent costs, so fewer people are receiving help than in years past.

"More money is having to come from us and we're not able to accommodate people because we've run out of money before we've used the vouchers," he said.

Director Bobby Hensley said the Biloxi Housing Authority is also creating more programs to help people become self-sufficient by offering training for job skills and financial literacy.

"Old school thinking in social services was to take care of people," he said. "We feel that our purpose is not to take care of people, but to aid them in taking care of themselves and to teach them to take care of themselves."

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