More than 13 years after Hurricane Andrew, people are still occupying FEMA trailers in South Florida. In Mississippi, Development Authority Director Leland Speed is quoted as saying, "We're still in FEMA trailers (seven months later). Can you imagine, 37,000 travel trailers with over 100,000 people in them (and hurricane season coming)?" So, why not provide something that is designed for permanent living, rather than camping? This question was raised during the Mississippi Renewal Forum, a planning workshop convened by new urbanists and state politicians in Biloxi last October. An architect from New York named Marianne Cusato drew up a design for a 400-square-foot cottage that could be erected on devastated lots and eventually be enlarged and added onto to become a permanent home.
Both Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu have come out in support of the Katrina Cottage and have lobbied FEMA on behalf of the project. The lobbying is necessary because current law limits the federal government to offering only temporary housing assistance. Presumably this was a recognition that the emergency management agency should not be in the housing business. But it clearly is. The legislators, too, need to go back to the drawing board.