Harrison County

Combatting misconceptions

Back Bay Mission is still trying to get across its message about the need for housing for government employees, service workers, skilled laborers and others who earn below median average income.

The media campaign, Warm Welcome Gulf Coast, is designed to dispel myths about affordable housing, defined as costing 30 percent of a person’s gross income.

Real estate agents point out that the Coast has a glut of housing, but affordable housing advocates say the prices are out of reach for many workers.

For example, a waitress who earns $10,300 a year can afford only $258 per month for rent. A plumber who earns $39,200 a year and has one child can afford a $121,000 home, or $980 a month in rent.

Local government boards have in some cases rejected projects designed to replace low and moderately priced housing lost to Katrina, affordable housing advocates believe, because of common misconceptions that create a not in my backyard attitude, known as NIMBYism.

Dena Wittman of Back Bay Mission said NIMBYism results in the “segregation of poverty” communities want to avoid. Hope VI on Biloxi’s Back Bay is considered a successful mixed-use development and example of affordable housing that works.

Wittman and Mission Director Shari Prestemon say Coast residents depended on to provide vital community services — including teachers, police officers and firefighters — need affordable housing. They also point out that today’s affordable housing bears no resemblance to public housing complexes of years gone by.

Their campaign also is designed to dispel the idea that affordable housing brings down property values, adds to crime and creates other social problems.

The campaign includes an Internet site, warmwelcomegulfcoast.org, and billboards in Gulfport and Biloxi.