The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates this week that 302,000 housing units were destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast. The estimate comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s most recent geographic analysis, the group said.

Of these units, 216,000, or 71 percent, were affordable to low-income households, those earning 80 percent of Area Median Income or less, according to NLIHC.

In New Orleans, 142,000 units were damaged or lost, 79 percent of which were affordable to low-income households. (In 2004 a low-income household earned $37,360 or less in Louisiana, $32,560 or less in Mississippi, $38,160 or less in Alabama, and $40,800 or less in New Orleans.)

In all Katrina-affected areas, 47 percent of units lost or damaged were rental units, according to NLIHC. In New Orleans, 55 percent of the housing destroyed or damaged were rental units. 

Of the total rental units lost, 73 percent of those that were affordable to extremely low-income households, those earning 30 percent or less of AMI, were in New Orleans, the coalition said.

“These initial estimates clearly show the severity of the loss of affordable housing, particularly rental units affordable to the poorest of the displaced families,” said Sheila Crowley, NLIHC President. “Special care must be taken in rebuilding enough affordable units to house all those who were displaced, both rental and ownership units. Rebuilding will require a large-scale capital investment by the federal government.”

These figures look at the number of housing units within a Census block group affected by the disaster, NLIHC said. The impact on housing within a block group is determined according to the proportion of the block group that FEMA indicates was subject to significant damage in the storm, thereby providing as accurate a picture as possible at this time.

As more data becomes available NLIHC said it would adjust its estimate.

While the Census numbers do not reflect any changes in housing stock since 1999, the proportions and numbers of units affected are not expected to have changed dramatically, particularly in older and densely developed areas like New Orleans.

The NLIHC is a membership organization dedicated to affordable housing issues.

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