Affordable Housing Crisis May Worsen

Owning a modest home remains but a dream for thousands of South Mississippi residents. They've been priced out of the market.

"Now that we've lost such an enormous amount of our market, and we've seen what remains drastically rise in price, contract costs rise in price, insurance costs rise in price, we've made a situation that deserves to be called a crisis," said Reilly Morse, an attorney who works on housing issues at the Mississippi Center for Justice.

Many residents remain in transitional trailers. Some are lucky enough to repair and keep their homes. Others aren't so fortunate.

"They have had to live so long on so little. And try and stretch their money for so long, that they've piled up debt and they don't have the ability to continue to carry forward," said Morse.

He says some local governments are making matters worse by balking at transitional housing, like FEMA trailers or Katrina cottages.

"Local governments are resisting the idea of allowing them to continue to come in. Well folks, for us to progress we've got to make allowance for the fact that this is going to be a long time getting finished. And we've got to continue to provide the basic housing necessities."

Hope Six in Biloxi will soon provide some relief.

"People don't realize it's public housing. And that's the whole plan, to build things that you don't realize is public housing," said Bobby Hensley, director of the Biloxi Housing Authority.

The housing authority plans even more projects.

"We have a three acre site where we're planning on putting 27 townhomes. We have applied for tax credits for one development of 236 units and the other one of 120 units north of the bay," says Hensley.

Morse says everyone deserves a place to call home.

"It's just not morally right for our communities to try and pick and choose who gets to come back. We were all here before. We all deserve to come back. And our communities and economy depend upon that occurring," he said.

Reilly Morse says phase two of the governor's Katrina grants could help ease the crisis somewhat. That program is targeted toward low and moderate income households.