November 25, 2008

Homes stay empty as insurance rates rise

Escalating insurance costs are keeping Habitat for Humanity homes in Mississippi unoccupied, one of the non-profit group's directors said.

We recognize that's a big hardship, Director of Habitat for Humanity's Mississippi Gulf Coast office Chris Monforton told USA Today Tuesday, referring to insurance costs.

Not just Habitat owners, but all homeowners along the Gulf Coast are struggling with insurance, he said.

Before Hurricane Katrina swept through the region in 2005, the year's worth of insurance and taxes the program requires potential homeowners to put in an escrow account before occupancy was about $800. That has jumped to between $2,800 and $3,800 now, Monforton said.

As a result, 38 of the 270 homes the program has built in Western Mississippi since 2007 remain empty, the newspaper said.

Land prices have also escalated. A plot in Mississippi that cost $4,000 before Katrina costs as much as $27,000 today, the newspaper said.

Mark Andrews, senior director for the program, said Habitat for Humanity has built 1,300 homes in four Gulf Coast states, but insurance rates in Texas in Louisiana have not risen as dramatically as they have in Mississippi.

It can very rapidly get unaffordable for families, Andrews said.