Biloxi Housing Authority Looking For Money

When the hurricane hit, the Biloxi Housing Authority had two developments under construction. A complex for the elderly is going up on Maple Street. The first floor was blown away, but work has resumed.

Near Bayview Avenue, Hope 6 homes stood, but flooded. They're now gutted and will eventually be restored.

"Housing is a critical piece of economic development initiative here in Biloxi. If we're to come back, housing has got to be part of it," Housing Commission Chairperson Delmar Robinson says.

Getting the money to do that is a challenge. HUD gave the agency $7.8 million dollars. Insurance settlements will help too. But it will take more to recover from $40 million in damaged properties.

"We are selling properties on the water, like I said, to raise money. We are looking at any way we can to bring money into the city and get these properties back up so these people can come home," Housing Authority Director Bobby Hensley says.

One of the properties for sale is where Back Bay Place used to be. The other is Beauvoir Beach that was on Highway 90. Both were destroyed and the Biloxi Housing Authority is not likely to build future neighborhoods near the water.

"We think those properties will bring enough money because of their location that it would be more advantageous for us to sell and rebuild elsewhere," Hensley says.

Hensley and Robinson hope a trip to Washington next month will guarantee a deposit in the agency's building budget.

"We're confident that there's funds within the HUD structure that we're going to be receiving. We don't know how much. We don't know exactly when we're going to get these funds but we're confident that funds are forthcoming," Robinson says.

The sooner the housing authority can get those funds, the sooner people can begin moving back into Biloxi's public housing.

Before Hurricane Katrina, there were more than 1,000 housing units. That includes Hope Six, public housing and Section 8 housing. Now Hensley says only 275 of those are occupied.