Saturday, March 18, 2006

She's A Brick----House

Last month I posted about the popularity (or not) of the "Katrina Cottage. Well now the local paper, The Times-Picayune has a story about it also and it has people wondering why FEMA can't provide them at less cost than the FEMA trailers.

Jake Borrouso of Chalmette lost his home and mother to Hurricane Katrina. He now lives with his girlfriend in a 28-foot trailer in Picayune, Miss.

The quarters are tight, and Borrouso isn't looking forward to spending hurricane season in the trailer.

The trailer "rocks in the slightest wind now. This is ridiculous," Borrouso said.

So after touring one of the small hurricane-proof homes that some are touting as an alternative to trailers, Borrouso left with one question.

"Why not do this in the first place instead of the trailers?" he asked.

State and local officials are wondering the same thing.

Architect Andreas Duany is not happy about the trailers either:

Spending more than $70,000 on a travel trailer is an "absolute scandal and waste of taxpayer money," Duany said. FEMA got "caught with the wrong model and wrong policy."
But FEMA can only offer its usual "hands tied" excuse.

The 1974 Stafford Act, which governs the assistance FEMA offers in the wake of disasters, prevents the agency from spending money on permanent residential construction. Furthermore, the thousands of manufactured mobile homes that FEMA set up in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 remain today as blighted communities, something state and federal officials want to avoid.

Mark Misczak, FEMA's Louisiana human services branch director, who has primary responsibility for housing, said he's asked Washington to make an allowance for permanent structures, but the answer has always been no.

But the aesthetics of the cottages are not the only things that are appealing. The can also be full-fledged permenent houses over time.

The main objective of the Katrina Cottage concept is for it to be a "seed" home that could be expanded into a larger 1,200- or 1,400-square-foot home once the previous structure has been demolished. The expansion would be U-shaped to create a New Orleans-like courtyard.

But on larger lots, the cottages could also be kept in their original small size and used as an apartment or guest house once the main home on the property is repaired.

Although I have to admit that the cottage have one disadvange that the trailer doesn't. In order for the cottages to become permenent, a permenent foundation must be designed and built. And given the soil conditions in SE Louisiana, that means a licensed civil engineer and in many cases, piles which can add several thousands of dollars to cost of the cottage as well as slowing down the delivery process. But even with all that, it still should be cheaper and delivered sooner than the trailers.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Do you look at Sitemeter referals or other similar data? I've seen a consistent (a couple a day) of hits on Wet Bank Guide on Katrina cottage. Now it seems to be spiking. You and V&V have really hit on something here. I don't see how the government turns on a dime and start ordering Katrina cottages, but someone in power somewhere needs to insist they do so.