Before Katrina, the mix of neighborhoods in the three coastal counties of Mississippi was typical small town America and the place called home to those living there.
Home after home looked like this in neighborhoods from Ground Zero to the Alabama state line after Katrina. Because the wind had earlier blown the roof off this house, when the water came, the lucky owner and his family were able to roof raft their way to safety in what he later called the ultimate water ride.
Over two years after Katrina, this home and countless others look like this – each in some way a casualty of the insurance war. Many, like this homeowner, are victims of the uncertainty. As Mr. Rogers sang, he “wants to have a neighbor just like you…to live in a neighborhood with you.”
Rebuilding is more than construction. Neighborhoods are the infrastructure of both the built and social community. Unless a home owner can self insure, he is limited to the current $250,000 limit of flood insurance since windstorm policy recovery has proven problematic. At the current cost of construction, that equates to a home of approximately 1800 square feet – larger than the largest Katrina Cottage but considerably smaller than many of the homes lost to the storm.
The longer the uncertainty lingers, the more difficult it becomes to rebuild the social community. Social networks provide relationships that connect people to essential social supports in much the same way that roads connect the built community. Many consider these social networks “the ‘scaffolding’ or framework upon which successful community-building efforts are created.”