Affordable Housing Summit Seeking Creative Solutions

Habitat for Humanity crews build a new home on Bowen Street. It is the kind of affordable housing that offers hope and uplifts a neighborhood.

But the big picture is more sobering.

"The stat at the two year mark was that only ten percent of our 70 thousand homes that were destroyed by Katrina had been rebuilt. We have so far to go, but we're never going to get there if we just don't work together differently and more creatively," said Rev. Shari Prestemon of Back Bay Mission.

The annual affordable housing conference, hosted by Back Bay Mission, is about forming new partnerships and exploring creative ideas. One speaker shared several innovative programs that have worked in her community.

Jill Suzanne Shook is with the Pasadena Affordable Housing Alliance.

"Land trusts. Where land is taken off the speculative market. So, people buy the homes, and not the land. And it makes it affordable," she explained.

The need for more housing is urgent and evident. Thousands now living in FEMA trailers are looking for affordable alternatives.

"We already had an affordable housing crisis prior to the storm in terms of a gap between a living wage and actually what it cost to maintain housing, you know, per month," said Dena Whittman of Back Bay Mission.

All of the Biloxi Housing Authority's Hope Six units should be occupied by the end of this year. The authority chairman says the next big challenge may lie north of the bay, where zoning needs to be changed to accommodate affordable housing development.

"This is where the land is located. And the notion of "not in my backyard", time out for that. We've got to move forward. We can't go backwards," said Delmar Robinson.

Jill Suzanne Shook told the group about another idea called "density bonus laws". Simply put, builders are allowed higher density housing developments, provided a certain number of homes are set aside as affordable.