What started as a big hope for affordable housing for low-income families turned out to be just another sad Hurricane Katrina story, but only for the moment.|
The Housing VI project began five years ago under the Biloxi Housing Authority, part of a $60 million effort called Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE).
"We got a $35-million grant from Housing and Urban Development, and combined it with money from the city and county, tax credits and bond sales for a $60-million project," said Bobby Hensley, executive director of the Housing Authority.
A major part was 106 units on Braun Street, south of Bayou Auguste. "They were completed and had tenants," said Hensley. "Most of the units had 6 feet of water from Katrina. We've been stripping them out, and treating for mold. We'll get bids in May and work out a timetable."
The project used numerous volunteer groups.
Units north of the bayou weren't finished and were still under the control of Yates Construction Co.
"Some of the older homes on Braun collapsed in the storm. I was proud ours stood up," said Hensley.
"What we built is not like old-style public housing," he said. "Most are two-stories and some are duplexes, side by side, and on top of each other."
Another site was on Maple Street, near Howard Avenue, where a three-story, 76-unit building was under construction for the elderly. "The first floor was framed, but the storm washed it away and left only a foundation," he said. "The contractor came back and has three floors framed. We hope to move in by early fall."
Hensley is still pushing HOPE. "There are a lot of challenges but we are positioning ourselves financially and personnelwise to meet the pressing need for affordable housing."
- GARY HOLLAND