What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bush, Barbour’s Katrina Housing Plans Smell Fishy

by Ana Maria

Just over a week ago, my tiny hometown learned of a secret Bush government plan to “wall and haul” the place. In conjunction with Mississippi’s Republican Governor Haley Barbour, the U.S. Corps of Engineers has been plotting and scheming to erect a 40-foot seawall along the beach and to buy up private property it deemed in the flood zone. This birthed my “wall and haul” phrase. You know, wall us up, haul us out.

My parents’ home has never been in a designated flood zone. Katrina is the only time our home had ever gotten so much as a drop of water. Now Bush’s government wants to buy up the family home and the surrounding area. We’re several miles from the Jordan River or the beach. And where will my mother and many others go? She’s lived in this town since 1953. That’s 54 years. How do you replace the safety and comfort, security, and friendships built up over that many decades? You don’t.

Allegedly, the property purchase, including my own mother’s home where she has lived for the last 45 years, is voluntary.

Bush’s Corps of Engineers and its willing accomplices in the Barbour government say the property purchase is voluntary. To believe this requires them to have credibility, which is nowhere to be found.

As I look around at several of Bush and Barbour’s different housing plans, this appears more of a shell game being played with American families and businesses and the money needed to rebuild our homes, our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

Some two years since Katrina demolished the area’s homes and businesses, we still have a housing crisis of epidemic proportions.

". . . the Institute for Southern Studies documented in [its] recent report Blueprint for Gulf Renewal, there's still a serious post-Katrina housing crisis on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Homeowners found the [Mississippi Development Authority]'s grant application process to be difficult and time-consuming, and many are still waiting for checks. In the meantime, there are few affordable rental units available in the region, another barrier facing internally displaced persons trying to exercise their right of return.”
Barbour To Skim Off Housing Money
Rather than cutting out the bureaucratic BS to get the appropriated funding to those who need it here on Mississippi Gulf Coast, Governor Haley Barbour is abandoning his responsibilities to blockade our state’s road home. Barbour, Bush, and their buddies in Big Insurance are Allies in Abandonment Alley.

Barbour proposed diverting $600 million from Katrina funds dedicated for low-income housing here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Barbour wants to use housing funds to rebuild the Port of Gulfport.

As if we’ve got all the housing we can stand down here and boy, oh boy, we better find something to do with that $600 million or Bush will take it back to pay for the better part of a single day’s worth of what it’s costing this nation for Bush’s unnecessary ‘adventure’ in Iraq—using Mississippi military men and women, I might add.

As I look around at the areas with which I’m personally most familiar—a good 50 mile stretch along beach front properties along the state’s Gulf Coast from Waveland straight through Biloxi, I’m not seeing much rebuilding of those beautiful old homes . . . or the beach front businesses for that matter.

See, if those folks aren’t building, that’s an important indicator that the financing isn’t here for many other things either. With the financing comes the construction jobs, which would be in abundance—but only if the financing were here. With construction jobs would come all manner of businesses to provide the goods and services those workers and their families would need. Businesses from plumbing to appliance to office supply stores to support the construction of those homes and business buildings. Businesses like toy stores and movie theaters, bakeries and department stores that families and communities need.

Of course, from architects to painters and electricians to roofers, these construction industry workers would need places for their families to live. Their children would need schools to attend, preferably with running water available like the rest of the U.S.

Alas, housing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast is scarce whether affordable or not. It just doesn’t exist much less in abundance, and what is available isn’t at the pre-Katrina prices. Everything is more expensive, though the wages have not risen.

Here’s the thing, if the solidly middle class cannot afford to rebuild their homes and businesses, that is a strong indicator that neither can those not yet in the middle class economic bracket. Purely and simply, the reason for this economic development stagnation is the lack of funding, money, moolah.

So that $600 million that Barbour wants to divert from housing? What a joke! We could sure use that money to build housing for folks to live in, move out of their FEMA trailers, quit bunking with family and friends, and move back here from where ever they may be residing outside of the area. You know, use it to help those for whom it was intended to help.

Breaking Down Barbour’s Housing Dollars
The Mississippi Center for Justice wrote a startling analysis of Barbour use of our tax money that is supposed to be alleviating our post-Katrina housing crunch.
Mississippi’s Katrina recovery programs have been characterized by disregard for the
needs of its most vulnerable citizens. Over $3 billion of the $5.4 billion Congress gave
Mississippi has been granted waivers from the requirement to serve the needs of low
and moderate income residents. Only $1 billion has been devoted to programs that
serve these same residents. (1) Two years later, less than $100 million from those
programs has been paid out. (2)

With over 17,000 households (close to 50,000 persons) still in FEMA trailers and others
doubled up with relatives or friends, Mississippi’s housing recovery is far from complete
two years after Hurricane Katrina. (3) Last week, however, Governor Haley Barbour
proposed to divert $600 million of housing recovery funds to pump into the expansion of
the State Port at Gulfport, a commercial maritime harbor that earned half its revenue
from casino leases prior to the storm. (4) This makes a mockery of the Governor’s
Commission’s recommendation to place a priority in every housing program upon
serving the needs of lower income storm victims. (5)
[Click here for endnotes.]
Only $100 million? Based on the totality of what had been appropriated originally, $100 million is less than 2%!!?# That is poppycock. And this is yet another great example of a failure of leadership aggressively pursuing every avenue possible to bring about a quick and vibrant recovery along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Are the White House, Big Insurance, and Barbour deliberately starving us all so that they can turn this beach front property into their personal financial playground years down the road?!

The picture seems to be coming in clearly when it comes to housing and rebuilding the Mississippi Gulf Coast, something sure smells fishy, and it isn’t coming from the Gulf.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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