There’s lots of rebuilding going on in Katrina-damaged parts of Mississippi, but very little of it is low-income housing.
And that’s a big problem, says a study issued today by RAND Corp. (An electronic version can be downloaded free, or you can support RAND’s charitable work by paying $18 for a paper copy.)
The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute says tens of thousands of families in Mississippi need leaders in government and the private sector to accelerate the rebuilding of affordable housing.
The study, "Rebuilding Housing Along the Mississippi Coast: Ideas for Ensuring an Adequate Supply of Affordable Housing," suggests such options as creating a new state entity to oversee housing recovery efforts.
I spoke with George Penick, director of the RAND institute. He gave the example of Picayune, Miss., 26 miles north of Lake Ponchartrain in Louisiana, whose motto is "A precious coin in the purse of the South." (That's Picayune's City Hall in the photo.) Penick says that Picayune's pre-Katrina population was around 12,000. Now it's around 22,000, including people living in trailers and doubling up with friends and relatives.
RAND's study was confined to Mississippi, but the situation is much the same in Louisiana: Often, the poor are the lowest priority when it comes to rebuilding after a disaster.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.