Tuesday, September 13, 2005

All the New Houses Go Boom, Boom, Boom

Reporter Eric Lipton of the New York Times has a story today about those booming sounds coming from the region of the country ravaged by Hurricane Katrina:
SLIDELL, La., - One team of men is bent over drills, driving mobile home anchors deep into the moist earth. Others are lifting cinder blocks that will be used to hold up the next set of identical beige homes that trucks, one after another, are bringing here.

A building boom is under way in this city at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, where one-third of the houses have been damaged or destroyed.

But this is just the start.

The government is beginning what urban planners are calling one of the biggest bursts of federal housing development in United States history. Last year in Florida, the Federal Emergency Management Agency set a record by installing 15,000 homes in the aftermath of four hurricanes there. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they hope to open 30,000 homes every two weeks, reaching 300,000 within months.

Those numbers make Levittown - the suburban community on Long Island where 17,447 houses were built after World War II - look modest. Even the rebuilding of Chicago after the great fire of 1871 or San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake do not compare, said Ruth C. Steiner, an associate professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Florida.

"This is a milestone of urban planning," Ms. Steiner said "There is no precedent on this scale in this country. It is just phenomenal."

The numbers might drop if the demand does not meet expectations. But more than 140,000 people are now packed into emergency shelters, while hundreds of thousands of others fill hotels, homes of friends or relatives or are temporarily relocated across the United States. The building blitz is intended to bring as many people as possible back to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

"It is like pushing a big rock down a hill," said Brad Gair, head of FEMA's hurricane housing task force, of the project. "It takes a little time to get it moving, but once it gets moving, it moves very fast. And that is where we are getting right now."

The families moving into the first of these new trailers and mobile homes, the use of which are provided at no cost, seem almost startled to be inside a structure that is not flooded or stiflingly hot and overstuffed with people.

Read the entire story at this link.

— The Boy in the Big Housing Bubble