Gov. Barbour: Housing remains top post-Katrina issue

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Governor Haley Barbour said Wednesday that there's new housing available on the coast to meet the post-Katrina demand. The trouble is, families and individuals can't afford it. That's why he's asking the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for 5,000 housing vouchers.

Governor Barbour talked about Katrina recovery during a noon hour speech Wednesday to the Gulf Coast Business Council. The governor spoke to 176 community leaders at the Great Southern Club. He challenged them to "step it up a notch" in the ongoing Katrina recovery efforts.

Governor Barbour said housing remains the number one issue. The governor told the Gulf Coast Business Club that Katrina left thousands of families with no options to replace their once modest, but extremely affordable homes.

"Families that were living in single family homes that were built before World War II, the mortgage of which had been paid off long ago, didn't have any insurance, 'cause the insurance went away when they quit making their mortgage payment," said Governor Barbour.

He said before the storm, around 42 percent of the rentals on the coast were single family homes, with rents that were "next to nothing."

"They were living for essentially nothing. And those housing units are gone. Not a few hundred of them are gone. Thousands and thousands are gone," said the governor.

Governor Barbour said even with hundreds of new apartments now on the market, the families who need housing most simply can't handle the rent.

"There are hundreds of vacant apartments on the coast. The problem is if you get enough to pay off your debt and pay your insurance, the rent is so high there are literally thousands of families who can't live there," said the governor.

That's why he's asking HUD for 5,000 housing vouchers to help families handle that cost.

"We're going to continue to build. But we're asking our federal partners, convert some of what we've been doing into about 5,000 housing vouchers. And I believe that will absorb these people we're talking about," said Governor Barbour.

The governor challenged leaders to "step it up a notch" with the ongoing Katrina recovery.      He says nearly four years after the storm, South Mississippi has spent just 57 percent of the two-point-eight billion dollars allocated by FEMA.

The governor set a goal of having construction underway on all Katrina public projects by September first

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