Gerald Blessey approaches governments for housing help

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX)- "I know it's coming to an end, but it's like I'm facing a brick wall," said Luella Hoggett about the end of her year living in a MEMA cottage.

She enjoys living there, but soon she will have to move.  With an income of just over six hundred dollars a month, she can't afford to make her cottage permanent.  The county will allow cottages to stay after the 2009 deadline, but like many others, Hoggett wont be able to afford the steps necessary to keep her cottage.  She would have to buy it, and then would have to pay to elevate it.

"I can't see like with what they say the price of putting these up in the air, and you know they're supposed to be like ten feet in the air," she said.

She applied for help from HUD, but she never heard back.  If she doesn't receive help from them soon, she's going to have to leave South Mississippi.  The cost of housing is simply too high.

"I understand that they're a lot of people ahead of me," she said, "but I'd like to know something before January, you know."

Hoggett is just one of the countless people in South Mississippi slipping through the cracks because of the high cost of housing.  Officials are trying to help.

Gulf Coast Housing Director Gerald Blessey is addressing coastal cities and counties, and asking them for their ideas to help rejuvenate the push to create affordable housing.  He started with the Jackson County Board of Supervisors.

"The local officials know their communities better than anyone, they work with them every day and trying to solve the problem, and so we want to have input from them about our programs in making sure they are coming forward, and to make sure that we are meeting any unmet needs," Blessey said.

From meetings like these, Blessey has already started looking into several programs that would help people like Luella Hoggett.  He is working with coastal banks and non-profits to help start a program that would alleviate interest rates.  Blessey said the proposed project would offset high insurance rates, and bring them down to pre-Katrina levels.

The Board of Supervisors is already getting their recommendations together.

"I understand they're gonna start this pretty quick, like right after the first of the year," said Supervisor John McKay.