Affordable Housing Supply Focus of Regional Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
GULFPORT, MS (April 3, 2012) – Half of renters and almost a third of homeowners on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are burdened by housing costs, according to a new regional housing assessment. In some cases, housing and transportation costs are more than 75% of household income.
Housing prices have dropped in recent years for both renters and homebuyers, but many households have also seen job losses or decreases in income that make it more difficult to pay for housing. The fair market rent in the Gulfport-Biloxi metropolitan area has decreased by 11% over the past three years; in the Pascagoula metropolitan area by 17%. Home sales prices have declined year-on-year between 2007 and 2011, with a 31% overall decrease for the five year period. According to the Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation, “Raw land and vacant houses are affordable, but families are unable to purchase them.” “The number one housing priority on the coast is jobs. Living wage jobs,” says Rhonda Rhodes, Director of the Hancock Resource Center.
Rhodes serves on the Housing Subcommittee of the Plan for Opportunity. Plan for Opportunity, a regional planning project and the culmination of many local planning efforts since Hurricane Katrina, is taking a close look at housing affordability at a regional level. Most of the programs and incentives created in response to Katrina’s widespread destruction ended in 2010, and the results are still not fully understood. “Housing, and its relationship to transportation, jobs and future land development are central to the Plan for Opportunity,” says David Perkes, Director of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio. “We have been working with housing providers, developers, advocates and other stakeholders to create a detailed and up-to-date assessment of the housing needs and resources of the three coastal counties. Having a clear picture of where we are will guide future decisions so that we can make communities with a range of housing choices.”
Hurricane Katrina simultaneously destroyed the majority of the coast’s rental housing supply and put many families out of their homes in need of rental housing. The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) directed funding and incentives to spur rental housing development in the three lower counties. GO Zone incentives awarded extra points to developers applying to build low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) apartments and single family homes in the lower three counties. GO Zone incentives resulted in 36 developments and some 4,000 affordable rental units in the lower three counties.
Now, some jurisdictions are saying it’s too much. Harrison County’s Board of Supervisors recently announced a moratorium on tax credit property development, and other communities are considering similar moves. Jurisdictions fear that the fiscal impact of tax credit properties in their communities and the disproportionate share that some jurisdictions have over others are not reasonable. Among the three coastal counties, Harrison County has the most tax credit units per household. However, Hancock County has the highest share of tax credit units relative to population below the poverty line.
While the income tax credits are provided to LIHTC developers by the federal government, at no cost to local government, Mississippi’s State property tax law is costing localities significantly. Due to the Mississippi State Tax Commission’s interpretation of state legislation passed in 2005, property tax assessors in the state are required to subtract the value of the tax credits from the value of the property for the purposes of taxation. The Mississippi Association of Supervisors and the Mississippi Municipal League are suing the Department of Revenue in an effort to have this legislation reinterpreted so that the value of tax credits can be assessed.
Addressing this issue is a top priority since there is still an apparent need for affordable housing. Many LIHTC apartment complexes have more than 100 families on their waiting lists and public housing authorities report combined waiting lists of over 7,000 households for housing choice vouchers. Despite the long waiting list, LIHTC apartments in each of the three counties still report vacancies. The existence of both waiting list and vacancies suggest a potential mismatch in supplies rather than a simple oversupply of LITHC housing. The housing subcommittee is working to determine the root causes of the mismatch in supply and demand and potential solutions.
The Housing Subcommittee recently reviewed a draft regional housing assessment that identified contributors to housing costs, including flood and wind insurance, energy and utility costs, the appraisal market, and housing finance. The housing assessment contains a wealth of information gathered from previous housing studies, interviews with community stakeholders, and analysis of survey data. The document allows for an in-depth understanding of the existing landscape of housing needs in the 3 coastal counties and provides the basis to propose ways to improve housing for residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Plan for Opportunity is directed by a partnership of regional and local organizations, including Gulf Regional Planning Commission, Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District, Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, the Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation, Mississippi Center for Justice, Steps Coalition, The Ohio State University, and The Kirwan Institute. The Housing Subcommittee has more than 20 members representing developers, social service providers, housing resource centers, banks, insurers, public housing authorities and other housing stakeholders in the region.
For more information about the Plan for Opportunity, visit www.gulfcoastplan.org
Contact: Ben Requet
Public Involvement Coordinator
Tel. 228/864.1167 ext. 214