GULFPORT, Miss (NYT) — Federal and state officials and housing advocates announced on Monday the creation of a $133 million program to address housing problems that remain for poor Mississippi residents five years after Hurricane Katrina.
The announcement comes after months of negotiations by officials from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Mississippi governor’s office and housing advocates on the coast, and could bring to a close a long-running dispute about the state’s spending of federal grant money after the hurricane.
“We’re pretty happy about it,” said Reilly Morse, a senior lawyer at the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit group. But, Mr. Morse added, it did not come easy.
Housing advocates have long criticized the state for not spending enough of its $5.5 billion in federal grant money on low-income residents, but that criticism reached a fever pitch in 2007 when Mississippi announced it was redirecting $600 million of federal money to refurbish and expand the shipping port here.
Mr. Morse and a group of public-interest lawyers filed a suit against HUD, charging that the diversion was an unlawful use of federal disaster money, especially with serious housing problems remaining. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in January, but the lawyers appealed the decision.