Is Affordable Housing Returning To The Coast?

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- South Mississippians have another choice when it comes to rental housing. Wednesday, The Columns at Gulfport held its ribbon cutting ceremony. While there are many new developments going up around the coast, how many are affordable?

"We have set the standard, the new standard for Gulf Coast living. Definitely," said Kim Mason, property manager at The Columns of Gulfport.

The Columns is the newest luxury rental community to open its doors to South Mississippians. The complex is at the site of the former Racquetclub Apartments. And while there are obvious differences, what has also changed when it comes to renting on the coast, is the cost.

"It's just so hard to find anything decent that's affordable and that's what we're trying to do," Mason said.

Before Hurricane Katrina, the average price of a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment was about $750. Now it's about $950, and some say it won't get any cheaper.

"It's just like gas prices. You just have to get used to it," said Louis Gagner with PRM, a local property management company.

Gagner said because of the increase in taxes and insurance, it is not uncommon for property owners to charge market rental rates.

"The housing is where it is. If the housing goes down, it's going to be because the property is losing value, and we certainly don't want property to lose value. If it does, that's going to keep investors from coming into the area," Gagner said.

As for affordability, developer Seth Greenberg calls that a relative term.

"Affordable by one person is obviously not affordable by another," Greenberg said.

Some say the days of $600 rentals are over and ultimately it's up to city and county governments to bring bigger and better employment opportunities to the coast so that all South Mississippians can afford to live.