MEMA cottages ruled to be modular homes

By Al Showers - bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi cottages are modular homes, as long as they are put on permanent foundations. That's the ruling Friday from attorneys representing MEMA.

Hancock County supervisors asked for clarification on whether the structures are mobile homes or modular homes after dwellers pleaded to make the temporary homes permanent.

The Katrina government housing program ends in March, and all South Mississippi municipalities have to decide where cottages can remain.

"Katrina came in in eight hours and destroyed our lives. And now, after over three years, we can begin to recover," Hancock County resident Mary Thornton said.

Friday was an emotional day for Thornton. Her Mississippi cottage is a step closer to becoming her permanent home.

"This means that me and my son will not be homeless, we will not be in a tent, that we have a home, we can start our lives again. I've been just waiting for something to come through and it did today."

Thorton hopes MEMA's decision will convince county supervisors to allow cottages to stay in her Bayside Park neighborhood.

"They are constructed in a manner that complies with the definition of modular homes. The units themselves, regardless of an axle or the wheels, have been constructed to modular home standards," said Ronnie Artiques, attorney for the Hancock County Board of Supervisors.

Earlier this week, some supervisors said they'd rethink their previous decision limiting cottages to mobile home parks, if the state no longer considered the units mobile homes. Cottage dwellers like Davis and Cheryl Kring hope Waveland leaders will rethink things too.

"More hope than we have had. It's eased a lot of stress. Obviously, there is still a lot of stress involved," Davis Kring said. "It's like a crack in the ice. There is a chance now."

Bay St. Louis leaders have voted against allowing MEMA to extend its cottage program. But council members have not voted to prohibit permanent cottages. The city attorney says so far, no one has applied for permits to make their cottage permanent.

"The City of Bay St. Louis is going to take a very open approach to them. We have denied a blanket variance to let the Mississippi Cottages in. However, we are looking at each one that comes across the building department's desk on a case by case basis," said Bay St. Louis City Attorney Don Rafferty.

For cottages to gain permanent status, they'd have to meet city or county elevation and building codes, and be put on permanent foundations.

Hancock County supervisors must still vote on whether to allow the cottages to stay, but the state's opinion clears the way for that to happen.

Either way, Mary Thornton says there will be a Save Our Homes rally held in Waveland on January 26th. It will be sponsored by the national organization "Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign." Thornton hopes the rally turns into a victory party.