November 16, 2005
According to the National Low-Income
Housing Coalition (NLIHC), an organization dedicated to ending
Americas affordable housing crisis, about 71 percent
of the houses damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Katrina belonged
to low-income householdsthose earning 80 percent of
the Area Median Income (AMI) or less. Confronted with the
need to rebuild, NLIHC deputy director Linda Crouch stresses,
Whatever is built, there has to be an appropriate number
of units available to people at all levels of income and ability.
But many experts feel that the rush to
redevelop will have a negative effect on those with few resources.
Mississippi State University architecture professor Michael
Berk warns that entire communities throughout the region,
unable to afford rebuilding, could be wiped out.
Jeff Lubell, incoming Executive Director
of the Center for Housing Policy, is hopeful that rebuilding
efforts will emulate the best models. He cites plans to mix,
rather than isolate, income levels; those that include accessible
open spaces; and those that allow for some alternative living
arrangements (such as in-law apartments and home-based businesses).
Such models have been found to be more successful than their
high-rise precursors." We cannot warehouse people and
we must consider this part of community during the planning,"
says Lubell. He mentions that vouchers which provide
a housing subsidy without publicly identifying people as recipients
nor grouping recipients together in one location or buildinghave
been a success in many communities.
Another solution has been proposed by
Pliny Fisk III, co-director of the Center for Maximum Potential
Building Systems (CMPBS) in Austin, Texas. He hopes that the
opportunity to rethink housing solutions will create environmentally,
socially, and economically-sustainable communities. His do-it-yourself
building system, made with standardized components and efficient
materials, called the groHome (and the goHome, a smaller version
for temporary housing), is designed so that homeowners can
pay as they enlarge the house over time. The houses, Fisk
says, could be manufactured and assembled by local companies
and workers. In addition to addressing the poverty housing
cycle, it will contribute to the rebuilding of community,
and empower its workers, adds Fisk.
Steve Mouzon, AIA, of PlaceMakers in
Miami Beach, who participated in the recent Charette in Biloxi,
Mississippi, suggests that the regions shotgun houses
could be mass-produced. "Several companies we have talked
to see this as an opportunity to transform their industry,
he adds. The shotgun homes would be single-wide
scale, making them available to low-income families and fitting
comfortably on small lots. Architectural Record, meanwhile,
is sponsoring a competition for single and multi-family houses
in the Marigny district of New Orleans. Submissions are due
on March 1.
Finally Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit
that builds and renovates houses for families in need, has
expanded its activities in the Gulf with stepped-up efforts
aimed at generating housing for low-income families. Mostly
recently, Habitat and Freddie Mac sponsored America
Builds on the National Mall, in November to build framing
components for 51 homes that will be transported to the Gulf.