New Study Says Coast Lacks Affordable Housing

Lucy Brown is the mother of 10. At age 67, she finally bought her first home, a newly built house on 47th Avenue in Gulfport.

"It's a good feeling to know you're in something you own," Brown said from her favorite room, the kitchen. "And that you don't have to pay rent." Ms. Brown has a $490 a month mortgage.

Vicki Looney helped Brown finance her home. Looney's company works with low income people to help them become homeowners.

"People are so excited and so appreciative," Looney said. "You really feel like you've done something when you've helped somebody create an inheritance for their family."

But according to a study released by the Gulf Coast Housing Coalition, affordable housing has been hard to find since casinos arrived. Researchers found out that only two of the 25 developers they surveyed built homes that cost less than $100,000.

Brynn Joachim of the Harrison County Development Commission said high land acquisition costs were partly to blame for that.

"What we've got to do is find a way to make the land less expensive," she said, "take that out of the equation, so that the houses do still stay affordable."

So what's the affordable housing solution? At a news conference, development leaders talked about creating land banks, and offering incentives to stimulate affordable housing construction.

The goal is to turn more low income residents like Lucy Brown into homeowners, so they can enjoy what Ms. Brown enjoys, a place she can truly call her own.

A New Orleans firm did the housing demand study. It determined that in the last 10 years, a third of the area's new homeowners moved into manufactured homes, because they were more affordable.