Report documents unfulfilled promises and 5,000 families without permanent housing
by Fred Kammer, SJ, JSRI Director
In a new report authored by Reilly Morse, Mississippi Center for Justice senior attorney, the center documents the shortcomings of Mississippi’s post-Katrina housing recovery. The report is entitled Hurricane Katrina: How Will Mississippi Turn the Corner? Among its key findings are these:
- Five years after Katrina, well over 5,000 Mississippi households are still without permanent housing. Low-income and African American communities have largely been left out of the recovery effort.
- Mississippi overstated to Congress by more than 15,700 the number of housing units that would be produced by its programs.
- Mississippi missed its 2010 targets for affordable housing by 2,500 units and must complete more than 5,200 units to reach 2011 goals.
- The files of the "invisibles"—more than 1,000 families whose needs were denied by state programs and unaddressed by over-burdened charitable programs—are housed in boxes and archived in computer files of various resource agencies.
- Hundreds more never made it to charitable programs—they took “no” from the state as a final answer and struggled on their own.
The report attributes the current failure to house Mississippi’s needy families to a combination of “unjust decisions by Mississippi policymakers, irrational interpretation of federal audit, elevation, and environmental rules, and discriminatory zoning decisions by local governments.”
For Mississippi to fulfill its post-Katrina recovery promises, the report indicates that it must:
- redirect and restore enough housing funds to cover the costs of the remaining unmet needs population;
- eliminate discriminatory zoning treatment of cottages, and require local governments to recognize state-law classification of "Mississippi cottages" as modular homes; and
- accelerate and augment the remaining small rental, long-term workforce, cottage, and public housing programs.
Five years is a long time to wait upon a home, but thousands of Mississippians are doing just that—waiting for their state government to fulfill its promises to them.