Miss. Coast: County Officials Want Closer Look at Cottages Proposal

Jackson County officials have put off until at least June 10 a decision on whether to join in a state-backed project to locate cottages in the Mississippi coastal location.

The Mississippi Alternative Housing Program has proposed a trial program to see if more durable housing, such as the modular cottages, is more cost efficient than FEMA travel trailers.

Unlike FEMA travel trailers, which are stored by FEMA until a major emergency hits an area, the cottages are manufactured at the time of need.

Becky Baum, director of the program, told supervisors on Monday that manufacturers could start turning out the cottages within two weeks of a disaster.

Supervisors were concerned with the permanency of the cottages, which are designed to have a lifespan of 15 to 30 years.

Supervisor Robert Norvell questioned if the durability of the cottages would tempt some people to make them their permanent homes.

The cottages come in three sizes. The park model, which is the smallest model, has 350 square feet. A two-bedroom has 728 square feet and a three-bedroom has 784 square feet.

All three versions are designed to withstand winds up to 150 mph, Baum said.

Supervisor Manly Barton said the county’s zoning ordinance could allow the cottages to be placed on a number of tracts of land. The only restriction from putting a mobile home in his subdivision, Barton said, are covenants, which are only enforceable through the court system.

Barton said his fear was that someone could put a cottage on land between two expensive houses, hurting the value of the neighbor’s land and houses.

Baum said supervisors would have ultimate control of the permanence of the cottages. Before they could be sold to the resident, she said the resident had to have all the permits needed for a permanent residence.

Baum said the program is limited to Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties. She said anyone in a FEMA trailer in those three counties as of April 1 who lived in the county Aug. 29, 2005, and who needed housing at least until March 1, 2008, are eligible.

Baum said participants selected for the program will be notified by her office.

Baum said since residents chosen for the program will have to pay for their utilities and lot rent, if the cottage is set up on property they do not own, she expects a number of residents to refuse to participate.

She said declining the cottages will not affect a resident’s FEMA living arrangements. However, agreeing to participate in the program means the resident will have to agree to give up all future FEMA housing assistance relating to hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

She said she expects to provide cottages for 4,500 to 5,000 residents currently in FEMA trailers.

The cottages can be set up anywhere except a current FEMA trailer park, she said in a www.gulflive.com article. She said the cottages can be set up in mobile home parks or on private property, as long as the resident owns the property or has the proper permissions and permits to set up the cottage.