Saturday, April 15, 2006

Mod Bod

Because labor and materials are in such short supply in the area, modular homes are becoming the way to go for many flooded homeowners with money but not time.

It can take up to six months to build a home, roughly twice the time it took before Hurricane Katrina, due largely to demand and difficulty in finding materials and labor, said Brown, general manager of L.A. Homes Inc. of Harvey.

Karen Fontana, who has been living in an apartment since her Lakeview home took on 6 feet of water, is not waiting around for busy homebuilders to find time for her.

Fontana is considering a faster and typically cheaper option for rebuilding in her old Lakeview neighborhood — a modular home built in a factory and pieced together onsite in about three months.

But these new builders are not without their critics.

Some traditional homebuilders are worried about the “cookie-cutter� effect they say factory-built housing will have on New Orleans, a city known for its neighborhood charm.

“If people want a quick fix, a quick fix is not what we should be doing right now. New Orleans has been built on neighborhoods. I don’t think the general public wants to change that,� said Toni Wendel, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans.

The critics do have a point, but their not mentioning that many of the neighborhoods in New Orleans that had severe flooding are not what most people would cinsider historic. Gentilly and Lakeview, while they do contain their fair share of "quant" neighborhoods, not all are what might be called "picturesque". Often what is found is block after block of the typical ranch house. So putting modular housing, while maybe changing the character of the neighborhood, may not degredate it such an extent that no one would want to live there.

What I think we will find in the coming decades is that there will be a shift in income levels among New Orleans neighborhoods.

  • The checherboard effect found in much of Uptown will slowly erode due to the price of elevation becoming more pronounced and people begin purchasing houses in poorer areas causing property values in these areas to rise.
  • Lower and more recently developed areas (with the exception of Lakeview due to it's proximity to West-End) will become more middle class as they will not be able to afford the high price of elevation.
  • Lower but earlier developed neighborhoods such as Broadmoor will be the domain of the middle and upper-middle class. Although it received as much as seven feet of water, many of these home were raised on piers and still maintain much of the craftsmanship found in many pre-war homes that so many find attractive.
So the fact that many neighborhoods that flooded and may have an abundance of modular homes probably will not the the "charm" that so many like. But it may bring back the charm in older areas that have seen the ravages of time and neglect.

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