By Phil DeVol

In May I wrote about the opportunity we had to create some community sustainability and help build houses for Hurricane Katrina victims. We had a partnership with a builder who was eager to use Bridges principles that would put Katrina victims at the center of the planning for their homes and neighborhoods.

The business plan had three legs: the first was the agreement between the builder and aha! Process. The second was the need for 800,000 housing units for Katrina victims in the region. The third leg was local employment for those who would buy the new homes. The expansion of the harbor and airport in Gulfport, Mississippi was projected to create 100,000 jobs, many of them good-paying. All we needed was an investor.

I’m sad to report that the plan collapsed. Two of the three legs were kicked out from under it. First, the risk and complexity brought about by the burst of the housing bubble and the collapse of the mortgage sector discouraged investors. Then the hoped-for jobs became tainted with political wrangling. When members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development learned that the state of Mississippi was diverting $600 million in federal hurricane relief funds intended for housing to the expansion of the ports, they objected.

We continue to look for an investor or benefactor who shares our vision of a housing initiative where people in poverty play a key role in planning and where we can develop all the elements of a Bridges Community.  When the mortgage industry is revamped and the courts rule on the hurricane relief funds, we can put out three-legged plan back together. Click here to learn more about developing Bridges Communities.