Considering the Cottages' Permanence

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is offering Katrina cottage dwellers the chance to buy up their units. But will these "shotgun shacks" ever be considered legitimate homes?
April 15, 2009, 1pm PDT | Judy Chang
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"Local officials are reluctant to say yes. Some see the cottages as mere shotgun shacks on wheels, and argue that allowing them to stay in place will drag down property values. That's an odd case to make in neighborhoods where rebuilding has barely begun and abandoned lots are going to jungle. Nevertheless, localities have found language in their codes to back it. In Gautier, even the largest MEMA cottages fall short of a mandate that homes in residential areas be at least 1,325 square feet. Bay St. Louis and Waveland tried to force cottages into mobile-home parks or out of the city limits entirely. After the Mississippi Center for Justice rallied eight cottage residents to sue Waveland, most jurisdictions have begun agreeing to let people stay in their cottages if they want to. Still, there are tight restrictions. In Gulfport, cottage residents are not allowed to keep a unit on their own property if a landowner within 160 feet objects.

Mary Sherrouse, who lives alone in a tidy two-bedroom MEMA cottage in Waveland, doesn't see what the fuss is about. 'Everyone who has one wants to keep it,' she says. 'Unless they've rebuilt.' Sherrouse tried to rebuild, too, but her contractor botched the foundation. Now Sherrouse is considering buying her cottage instead. MEMA offered it to her for $547. She imagines making additions that would give her more living room and bedroom space. 'My daddy built his house here in 1940,' Sherrouse says. 'I don't want to leave. It's home.'"

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Published on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 in Governing
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