Affordable Housing Crisis Impacts Many - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

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Affordable Housing Crisis Impacts Many

Volunteers from Back Bay Mission work on a post-hurricane project in East Biloxi. While Katrina certainly worsened affordable housing problems, some say the storm didn't create the crisis.

"Rents were already going up at that point and people were having a harder time paying those rents, because wages and salaries weren't going up at the same rate. So, I think it was a crisis before and certainly Katrina just exploded that crisis," said Rev. Shari Prestemon, who directs Back Bay Mission.

And it's not just low income folks having problems. Many hospitality workers, health care aides and others face troubles affording home sweet home.

"That is the same group that is going to be working in our casinos and some of the other industries here. It's the group that we need to keep this economy flowing, but that is the very group that can't find affordable housing," she says.

Everett Lewis is an affordable housing specialist who's been working at Back Bay Mission since last summer.

He says the crisis impacts people of all descriptions.

"That could be a single parent with one child that makes about twenty to twenty five thousand dollars a year. We need to be able to have housing to support that type family. Right now on the coast, that is very, very difficult to do," said Lewis.

Few affordable houses have been built since Katrina.

"If you're talking about single family, you'll see many developments that say starting at 170, 180. Well, that's still not affordable to a lot of people living on the coast."

Higher home prices make it tough enough for many families. But factor in the cost of post-Katrina insurance and it pushes many home purchases into the unaffordable column.

"The family can qualify to cover the principal and interest portion of the mortgage. You tack on 200, 250, 300 dollar escrow for insurance and a lot of times that kills the deal," said Lewis.

Back Bay's director says public education about affordable housing is the first step in tackling the challenge. Step two is working together.

"Collaborative across lines. Business lines, non profit, religious groups, political. All of these sectors need to work together on this issue in ways that we never worked before," says Rev. Prestemon.

By Steve Phillips

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