The Lawyers’ Committee, with the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), scored a major victory for low-income, largely African-American residents of the Gulf Coast region when the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved on November 8, 2010 a housing recovery plan submitted to HUD by the State of Mississippi. The plan provides over $132 million in HUD disaster recovery funds for low and moderate income households who had been left out of previous plans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of millions of dollars were mis-directed away from low-income, minority homeowners and renters in this devastated region and allocated instead for commercial redevelopment purposes. This settlement corrects that injustice and reallocates the funds to their original purpose: to provide relief to homeowners and renters, the majority of them Black, who have struggled in the five years since Katrina in deplorable housing. Upon approval of this plan, the plaintiffs that we represent agreed to the dismissal of NAACP v. HUD, the case challenging HUD’s 2008 approval of a State plan to divert $570 million away from housing assistance programs to finance a major expansion of the Port of Gulfport.
In less than 60 days since the approval of this plan, 10,200 people filed claims for housing assistance – two-thirds of whom are African-American. Outreach appears on track to reach 15,000 intakes by the time the claims period closes at the end of January. The Lawyers’ Committee and MCJ will continue to play a central role in the implementation of this plan and to provide legal assistance to those communities fighting for their right to adequate housing. For thousands of Black families in the Gulf Coast Region, five years after Katrina roared through, there is at last hope.