Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rising Insurance costs keeping Habitat houses locked in Mississippi

After Hurricane Katrina, Habitat for Humanity built 100s of houses in the Gulf area. But for one state, many of the houses built still haven't been occupied.

In Mississippi, the rising insurance coasts have kept the people out. Only 6 out of the 30 houses have been filled. The people have been having trouble saving for the first year taxes and insurance that Habitat requires.

In this Associated Press story found in the Desoto Times, the prospective homeowners have had to apply for other grants to raise the money.

"It is a struggle. That is not unique to Habitat families. It's a struggle to most first-time buyers," Monforton said.

But Hurricane Katrina, which hit in 2005, has exacerbated the average challenges homebuyers face.

The storm nearly wiped out Mississippi's coast, taking with it affordable housing. That is compounded by some insurance companies, scared off by the hurricane risks, greatly increasing their rates and others pulling out of the region altogether.

Since Katrina, rates along the Gulf Coast have increased about 33 percent in some areas, depending on how close a property is to the water, said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.


All of the Mississippi homes have been assigned. Some of the families are turning to outside grant programs for assistance with varying degrees of success. Families who qualify for up to a $48,000 grant through the state's Katrina work force housing program were waiting to receive that money before closing. But Monforton said the grant can't be used for taxes and insurance.

Tracey Robinson, 40, just moved into her Habitat home after receiving a grant from the city of Pascagoula to help cover her insurance costs. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently stopped paying Robinson's rent at a house she moved into after she left a FEMA trailer.

"My kids and I were at the point where we really didn't have anywhere to go," said Robinson.

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