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South Mississippi Living 4/07

Thursday, September 27, 2007

RAND study: Affordable housing lags in Miss areas hit by Katrina

The Associated Press

The recovery of housing affordable in hurricane-damaged areas of South Mississippi lags significantly behind the rest of the region's housing market, according to new study.

The study by the Rand Corporation examined the impact of Hurricane Katrina on housing and the progress being made toward recovery in the region.

The report, "The study, "Post-Katrina Recovery of the Housing Market Along the Mississippi Gulf Coast," found that the affordability of rental housing was a major issue even before the 2005 storm, with nearly 40 percent of renters paying more than they could reasonably afford.

Katrina destroyed or severely damaged more than 20 percent - about 5,700 - of the affordable rental units in the southern portion of the state.

The study also found that residents in the storm-damaged area had seen a 20 percent increase in rents while employment has declined.

RAND, a nonprofit research organization, also reported that construction to repair or replace about 60 percent of all damaged multiunit housing had begun as of July. That number still lags behind repair and replacement of single-family homes.

Recovery efforts for all housing types are expected to take at least three more years and cost a total of more than $4 billion, according to the study.

The lack of affordable rental units added to the difficulty in attracting construction laborers and other workers needed to rebuild the region's infrastructure, the report said.

"The challenge for the region is to develop a balanced growth plan that provides housing for people at every income level," said Kevin McCarthy, the study's lead author and a senior social scientist at RAND. "There needs to be more affordable housing to create diversity in the economy and build a new, better Gulf Coast."

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute works to develop a long-term vision and strategy to help build a better future for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Sun Herald originally posted this article on September 27, 2007.

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