November 16, 2007
Two years after Katrina, casinos, hotels and condos are coming back strong in the hardest hit areas of Mississippi, but tens of thousands of people are still displaced—in limbo with no solution in sight.
The Rand Corporation recently released a report on post-Katrina Mississippi with relatively gloomy conclusions:
Recovery will take at least another two to three years, and the final costs will exceed $4 billion. Three issues will be critical to short-term recovery: construction-sector capacity; availability of funds to finance recovery; and an adequate supply of housing, especially affordable housing, for those whom the storm displaced from their residences.
This isn't news to the Steps Coalition, which is fighting on behalf of families who are still in need of housing, and tracking what's happened to the money Congress sent to rebuild. The Steps Coalition argues that Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's recovery plan has made it difficult for the states' poorest families to rebuild.
Barbour received over $3 billion dollars specifically for housing. Federal rules required that half that money be given to lower income families but Governor Barbour also got permission to disperse funds as he saw fit. The Steps Coalition and other critics argue that under the Governor's two-phase plan left lower income families off the priority list. FEMA itself reports there are 14,000 families still living in FEMA trailers across the state today.
As Steps Coalition Executive Director Melinda Harthcock notes, Katrina merely added to the problems of a state which ranks near the bottom in income, education and health. "We had an affordable housing crisis before the storm. Corporations were importing workers. Developers were filling in wetlands. And basically, our quality of life was tanking before the storm. But things were happening so slowly that few noticed the danger. Katrina dramatically accelerated everything."
>Find out more about the historic community of Turkey Creek.
Published on November 16, 2007