Rebuilding will stall unless we hammer out the definitions

“Modular” and “manufactured” are mere words. Adherence to building codes is what matters. But as we have learned since Hurricane Katrina, building codes should not be set in stone. As conditions and technologies change, so should the codes.

To mitigate the damage of future storms, local governments across South Mississippi quickly and wisely upgraded the standards for building new homes.

But it has been more difficult for building officials and their elected overseers to come to terms with non-traditional solutions to our housing problems, especially in traditional residential areas.

Zoning ordinances still need to be fine-tuned to allow residents more options in replacing their homes. One of those options should be modular housing.

Not mobile homes. But modular ones, built to be as durable — and attractive — as any other home.

Modular homes are factory-built in a controlled environment in modules. These are not flimsy, metal containers; they are built to the International Residential Building Code and, depending on the size, or the number of modules, they have a wide range of costs.

So if these houses are built to the highest standards, what difference does it make if they are called modular or manufactured? And why should local zoning ordinances — or someone’s neighbors — discriminate against them?

Modular construction is a critical part of the solution to South Mississippi’s housing needs because we do not have the time to rebuild every new house in South Mississippi “stick-by-stick.”

While protecting property values in established neighborhoods, our city and county leaders must also support innovative and flexible building techniques so that as many South Mississippians as possible can rebuild on their now-vacant lots.

Such support will be much easier to develop and sustain if residents of established subdivisions of traditionally constructed homes appreciate the distinction between “modular” and “manufactured” and understand that modular construction will not automatically devalue their properties.

We salute those who stay to tell our story

The Weather Channel’s focus on South Mississippi at the start of this year’s hurricane season is appreciated.

Along with USA Today’s commitment to continuing to chronicle the ongoing saga of Hurricane Katrina, the cable channel is helping keep the nation aware of the progress of our recovery — or the lack thereof.

They are, of course, not alone. Their Mississippi connections have kept ABC’s Robin Roberts, Fox News’ Shepard Smith and CNN’s Kathleen Koch and Anderson Cooper emotionally and professionally tied to this story. We salute them all for staying with us for the long haul.