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Cottage is beginning

Mississippi Cottages finally rolled out

Family members, friends, neighbors and local officials gathered at the Southern Oaks Mobile Home Park in Gulfport May 1 to celebrate a milestone in post-Hurricane Katrina recovery.

Eighty-two-year-old retired Air Force veteran Ralph Bougrand and his wife, Edna, are the first Gulf Coast residents to purchase the Mississippi cottage they received from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) after the 2005 storm devastated their community.

Bougrand’s cottage is just the beginning of MEMA’s master plan to convert its temporary disaster housing into permanent homes for South Mississippi residents. Eight to 10 cottage purchases are expected daily in the coming weeks, according to Greg Flynn with the MEMA external affairs office.

“We are hoping to get the process started… its important to break the ice,” he says. Flynn adds that the first cottages were dubbed “Katrina cottages” until Lowe’s Companies Inc. trademarked the name for a similar modular home program.

MEMA received a $281-million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a pilot program to produce safer, more comfortable disaster housing as an alternative to FEMA travel trailers and mobile homes. Since 2007, the Mississippi Alternative Housing Project has produced more than 3,000 cottage units. The Governor’s Office announced last March that over 2,000 Gulf Coast families had successfully moved into the Mississippi cottages. 848 units were reported in Hancock County, 667 units in Harrison County, 480 in Jackson County and only five in Pearl River County. The first residents moved in June 21, 2007.

Lexington Homes in Lexingtonwas selected as one of the building contractors, along with four other firms from Alabama, Georgia and Indiana. “We went through a competitive process and had a variety of manufacturers,” says MEMA executive director Mike Womack. “We are very proud of the units and wanted to be able to manufacture a large number of them at one time.” Womack adds that MEMA also wanted manufacturers who had experience with the design.

The one- to three-bedroom 780 square-foot units cost between $31,000-$52,000 to design and construct and come with sheetrock walls, 2×6 studding and metal pitched roofs. They are also rated to withstand winds of 150 miles an hour, exceeding Gulf Coast standards. Four hundred of the cottages are handicap accessible.

Womack says what makes Mississippi cottages unique is that they are not just a typical shotgun-style cottage. “The overall quality of construction, the materials and other safety factors that were all integrated make these cottages an extremely good place to live,” he says. “The state came up with a great concept, and the workmanship and craftsmanship is something to be proud of.”

MEMA says it is happy to work with residents who are opting to purchase the cottages rather than attempt a new housing project. “We have a number of elderly residents, and its economically unfeasible for them to rebuild,” Flynn says. To purchase a cottage, residents must meet certain criteria such as living in the cottage as their primary residence until 2010. MEMA says units are not sold for what they are worth but rather based upon residents ability to pay. MEMA says the units range from roughly $350-$13,000.

Contact MBJ staff writer Stephen McDill at stephen.mcdill@msbusiness.com.

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