A longtime vision of new, affordable housing in East Biloxi is a step closer to reality.
Construction work is underway on the nearly sixty million dollar development called "Hope Six". Two dilapidated "barracks style" public housing projects were demolished to make way for a more modern neighborhood of town houses and single family homes.
Leaders of the Biloxi Housing Authority have faced some significant hurdles with the project. Problems included dealing with the resignation of the former executive director and questions from HUD about a failure to meet certain project deadlines.
But despite the challenges, Wednesday's long awaited ground breaking brought out the smiles.
"He is the one I think really needs the biggest round of applause on this. Delmar," said Dean Wilson, as he introduced the chairman of the Biloxi Housing Authority.
Chairman Delmar Robinson shared how his vision for Hope Six began. He told the crowd about a visit he and his wife made several years ago to a rundown housing project.
"And we went up to Bayou Auguste. And we saw how sad it looked. And I told her at that time, if given the opportunity that we would do something about it," Robinson recalled.
Annita Moore lived in one of those dilapidated projects.
"If you lived in Bayou Auguste, you knew what to expect. You wasn't going to get a high quality home," she said, as she viewed the project now underway.
Moore is excited to see construction of her new neighborhood. When the project was first announced, she was skeptical.
"There was just woods. And I thought this was eventually going to be a casino's property. And I just really gave up hope of Hope Six," she admitted.
The ground breaking and the work already underway helped restore that hope.
"This at least puts the naysayers at ease to see we are moving to a positive effort to bring new and affordable housing into our community, ward two," said Biloxi city councilman, Eric Dickey.
Last month, WLOX News reported that HUD was threatening to withhold federal dollars from the Hope Six project because of its failure to meet certain deadlines. That prompted the housing authority director to travel to Washington two weeks ago in an effort to resolve those problems. Now, the necessary checkpoints, which include the pouring of eight foundations, have been addressed to HUD's satisfaction.
Housing authority vice chairman, Dean Wilson, says it's time to move forward.
"We can't wait to get started to get some houses for people to live in that are nice, affordable and that they want to live in," he said.
Annita Moore is also excited about the prospect of moving into one of the new units.
"You know, they're changing the atmosphere and the houses completely. So, that's a plus," she said.
A total of 233 mixed income housing units will be built on the site of the old Bayview-Bayou Auguste property. The first homes should be ready in about a year.
Along with that initial development, the Hope Six plans call for even more new housing in East Biloxi. The master plan is for 387 housing units, including single family homes and an elderly housing complex.