I posted previously on MS Governor Haley Barbour's support for the plan divert federal Community Development Block Grant funds to a port expansion in Gulfport.
The following is section III of the comment to the MS Development Authority and HUD, by Gulf Coast and national advocacy groups:
MISSISSIPPI HAS FAILED TO ADDRESS THE HOUSING CRISIS
ESPECIALLY THE DIRE NEED FOR AFFORDABLE RENTAL UNITS
The State's hurricane recovery strategy has played a major role in the rental housing crisis. Only $358 million of the $5.4 billion emergency CDBG grants, or 6%, has been allocated to rental housing, i.e. the public housing program and the recently approved small rental assistance program. Such a small percentage of the allocation of CDBG funds for rental housing cannot be justified when the impact of the storm fell so disproportionately on rental housing and low and moderate income persons.
Moreover, the State has sought and been granted waivers of the CDBG requirement that 50% of the funds go to the benefit of low and moderate income people for 80% of the CDBG hurricane funding. Even putting the best light on all programs of the State plan for meeting the rental property needs (which includes programs beyond the CDBG money), its strategy will restore at best only 51% of the known rental need. Only 11,730 rental units are forecast to be built by the Small Rental Program and the GO Zone Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. When one adds 316 destroyed public housing units and a projected 1,275 units under the MS HOME Corp. set-aside the total of rental units projected is 13,321 which only meets 51% of the reported rental housing loss -- the 26,037 damaged units reported in the July, 2006 FEMA/HUD report. As for units severely damaged, the small rental program will restore only 43% of them.
The State is fully aware of this shortfall. Advocates have urged the State to enlarge both the Small Rental Program and to increase funding sources for other rental programs, including making CDBG funds available in combination with GO Zone tax credit funds for affordable housing projects, but these requests have been rejected. For example, the State rejected proposals to enlarge the size the Small Rental Program.
The State's recovery plan also leaves out Mississippians who suffered wind damage to their homes. This includes almost 34,000 households who suffered severe to catastrophic wind damage, including 10,300 who had no insurance. Costs to repair for major damage range between $33,000 and $53,000. Costs to repair for catastrophic damage range between $70,000 and $201,000. Insurance settlements did not cover the full cost to repair: The average wind insurance settlement along the 3 coastal counties was $15,869, and did not cover the full cost to repair the full cost of repair.
For wind-damaged households, subtracting out $15,000 in insurance, the unmet need starts at $17,000 for moderate damage and $54,000 for catastrophic damage and goes up. Lower income African American households in many coastal Mississippi communities suffered exclusively wind damage because segregated patterns of settlement placed them on the north side of the railroad tracks which functioned as a levee. Many of these residences were of older construction, with greater deferred maintenance and greater vulnerability to more severe windstorm damage than residences generally. Unlike Louisiana, these Mississippians are left out of the so-called "comprehensive" recovery plan. The State is aware of this unmet need for it has rejected repeated calls to include wind-damaged households in the home grant programs.
In sum, the continuing housing crisis is to a great extent caused by the failure of the State's plan to address it.
The signing groups are:
- The Steps Coalition, Inc. (an alliance of 35 member organizations and 16 affilliated
- Mississippi Conference of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- National Low Income Housing Coalition
- National Fair Housing Alliance
- Alabama Arise, a coalition of religious, community and civic groups
- Sisters of Mercy
- Mississippi Human Services Agenda
- National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness
Research was provided by:
Mississippi Center for Justice, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Fair Housing Allliance, and National Low Income Housing Coalition, and Oxfam America
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