Katrina Housing Programs Updated

Katrina Housing Programs Updated GULFPORT, MS - Post-Katrina housing programs funded with federal recovery dollars should provide enough units within about a year for those still displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Housing Director Gerald Blessey said Wednesday, but he added that a return to pre-Katrina populations and economic recovery is further off for South Mississippi.

Blessey said local governments need to think strategically to bring in commercial development, offering such incentives as tax credits for projects that are of high quality and create jobs. "Even next year or 2011, we're not going to quite be back to our pre-Katrina population, and we should have been growing," Blessey said. "That to me is the challenge in our economy,"

In a meeting at the Sun Herald, Blessey also offered a rundown of progress on post-Katrina housing projects using Community Development Block Grant funds administered through the Mississippi Development Authority.

REACH: The Renaissance Corp. program, which offers down payment assistance to qualified home buyers, has just been qualified by the Federal Housing Administration, which should speed up the loan process. So far, 65 loans have closed over a six-month period. Blessey expects the pace to pick up, with about 30 loans per month being processed. REACH is working with 700 applications.

In two-thirds of the cases, REACH matches down payment funds contributed by employers, but one-third of the loans do not require employer matches because they go to employees of schools, hospitals and local governments.

MyHome MyCoast: In conjunction with other organizations, the Renaissance Corp. created this perpetual fund to assist thousands of residents and potential residents of the six southern counties with homeowner financing. Although the program is relatively new, 6,000 calls have been received and 2,000 households have met eligibility requirements; another 600 have been approved for mortgages. Blessey expects 30 or more a month to be processed, with 25 loans closing by the end of May.

Small Rental Assistance Program: Under this program, incentives are offered in exchange for a fixed period of rent to low- and moderate-income tenants. In the first round of funding, 1,800 units were approved. Blessey expects another 3,000 to 3,500 to be approved in the second round. He said he doubts a third round of applications will be taken.

Public housing: FEMA has identified 3,600 available rental units, with 2,300 of those willing to accept housing vouchers. Gov. Haley Barbour is asking the federal government to approve an additional 5,000 vouchers for Mississippi.

Mississippi Cottages: Permanent placement is planned for about 1,500 cottages, with $20 million to put the modular homes on permanent foundations. Blessey expects placements will be completed within the next few months.
Source: SunHerald.com

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