Federal Panel Hears Housing Testimony

A visiting subcommittee from Congress is looking for ways to help solve the affordable housing crisis. The panel heard testimony Friday at the Good Deeds Community Center in North Gulfport.

Congressman Gene Taylor suggests starting with insurance reform.

"Where there were four and five thousand square foot houses, people are putting up a one thousand square foot house. And that's a combination of not being paid on their insurance, and then being told it's going to be a heck of a lot more expensive," said the fourth district congressman, as he testifed before his colleagues.

A planning consultant for Gulfport says post-storm assistance is badly needed in administrative support, especially in areas like a city's building department.

Dr. Jeffrey Bounds says many city services were overwhelmed in Katrina's wake.

"As you can imagine, that really overburdened the resources the city had. Essentially in every department the City of Gulfport has been strained to the breaking point. Generally unable to hire sufficient staff due to housing constraints, it's very difficult to move new people into the area," said Dr. Bounds.

"I know red tape. I know bureaucracy. I served 34 years in the federal government, then I retired. However, we're dealing with flesh and blood," said Delmar Robinson, who chairs the City of Biloxi's public housing commission.

Biloxi's housing board chairman pleaded for efficiency of available funds.

"We do need assistance in expediting the funds that Congress appropriates," Robinson told the visiting federal panel.

Several witnesses also asked the group to consider factoring faith-based groups into the federally funded recovery equation.

H. Rodger Wilder heads the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

"Because the money wouldn't clean out a house. It wouldn't tear out sheet rock. It wouldn't rip out flooring. Those people did," he said.

Testimony wraps up a two day visit to the Gulf South. The panel was in New Orleans on Thursday.