Everyone knows about Hurricane Katrina, but what most people don’t know is FEMA rules have devastated much of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Pascagoula particularly.
Nearly 20 years after the storm, housing in Pascagoula is drying up due to policy decisions out of Washington, D.C. It’s not too late, but now is the time for Congress to take action!
Hear our Call: #S.O.S.Pascagoula
After Hurricane Katrina, FEMA drew new flood maps for the Mississippi Gulf Coast based on an extreme and incredibly rare weather event.
Prior to Katrina, 15-20 percent of Pascagoula was in a flood zone.
It was mostly where you would expect: beach front properties and along the river.
FEMA’s new map put 90 percent of Pascagoula in a flood zone, even though most of this area has only flooded ONE TIME in over a hundred years. What were once great places to raise a family quickly became mired in federal regulations, escalating expenses and declining property values.
Tucked into FEMA’s flood insurance program is the 50 percent rule (or substantial improvement rule). It is slowly killing Pascagoula’s working class neighborhoods. Unless property owners elevate their property to meet FEMA regs, they are not allowed to spend more than 50 percent of the structure’s value to maintain and improve their homes.
Many of these homes are valued at less than $100,000, which means a homeowner could only spend ½ of their value for electrical, roofing, kitchen, plumbing, etc. in a 10-year period. It’s absurd and predictably it’s creating blight at an alarming pace.
Since Pascagoula was re-mapped into a flood zone in 2008, 90 percent of the private commercial and residential parcels have declined in value or remain static.
This is despite other coastal communities and even other areas of Jackson County experiencing strong property value appreciation, plus enormous job growth and capital investment in Jackson County.
The 50 percent rule makes it practically impossible to improve local neighborhoods or attract homebuyers rather than renters. The combination of bad federal policy, rising material and labor costs, and declining property values take people’s freedom to take care of their homes.
Homes and entire neighborhoods are dilapidating, causing blight and decreasing property values.
Jackson County is the most industrialized county in the State. In the last two years, 5,000 new jobs and $500 million of capital investment have been announced.
Beyond our industrial companies, this issue has immense consequences for various other businesses, such as Singing River Health System, banks, realtors, small businesses, and others.
This is not just a Jackson County or Coast issue. This affects all of Mississippi. Data shows that members from all 82 Mississippi counties work in Pascagoula.
The state is losing an estimated $250M a year in revenue from the 5,000 high wage-earners who work in Jackson County, but live out-of-state.
Pascagoula workers play an outsized role in America’s military and energy sectors providing critical assets for Nation’s security and economy – from defense to fueling. Yet, there are essentially no housing options for them close to work.
Our impressive roster of major employers includes: Ingalls, the state’s largest private employer; Chevron Refinery, the company’s largest wholly-owned facility; Halter-Marine, a tier one shipbuilder with 1000+employees; Northrup Grumman, aerospace and unmanned air vehicle facility; and Rolls-Royce which builds propeller systems for U.S. Navy ships.
Pascagoula and Jackson County are working hand-in-hand with the Mississippi Congressional delegation to address these misguided federal policies. We are working to bring improvements to the people in Pascagoula and elsewhere affected by FEMA’s 50 percent rule by giving them more freedom and flexibility to maintain their homes like anyone else in the country.
In addition to the SOS Pascagoula effort targeting these FEMA regulations, Pascagoulans have come together to revitalize the city’s downtown with encouraging results. Pascagoula Redevelopment Authority, with corporate support from Chevron, Mississippi Power, Halter Marine, and Ingalls have made substantial investments to downtown. The Mississippi legislature, through the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund, has provided millions of dollars for these efforts.
While we’ve chosen to specifically tackle the 50% rule head on to help provide some relief for the community, other efforts are underway including work to redraw Mississippi’s flood maps.
For these efforts to be successful, we need strong participation from the community to help persuade Congress this is an issue that needs addressing. Check out the “Get Involved” page for more information on how to participate.
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