When Hurricane Gustav hit the U.S. Gulf Coast earlier this month, it ruined hundreds of cottages in southern Mississippi that were provided to residents left homeless three years ago by Katrina. So far, more than 230 of the so-called "Katrina Cottages" have been deemed uninhabitable by insurance adjusters due to water and storm surge damage, according to a release (pdf) from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. There are current over 2,800 Katrina Cottages occupied by families across South Mississippi.

The state is offering affected families a few options: relocation to a cottage in a commercial mobile home lot, with the family responsible for paying any lot rents or fees; placement in a cottage on other land where local codes allow it to be there permanently and where it does not have to be elevated higher than six feet; or moving to a rental apartment with the state footing the bill for the security deposit and rent through February 2009, when assistance for Katrina victims is set to end. Families that opt to live in a cottage will get the opportunity to buy it at a reduced rate based on income and ability to pay. Funds to house the Gustav victims are coming from insurance proceeds for the destroyed cottages.

"We are making every attempt to not only help these families find housing, but to ensure they are able to remain within their communities and school districts where they currently live," said MEMA Director Mike Womack.

The Associated Press reports that most of the uninhabitable cottages are located in Mississippi's coastal Hancock County, which was Katrina's Ground Zero. The state obtained a federal waiver that allowed the cottages to be temporarily set up in flood zones so residents could live on their own properties.

Mississippi built the cottages with a $281 million federal grant. While Louisiana also got money for cottages, it hasn't built any yet. The idea for the cottages arose during the post-Katrina Mississippi Renewal Forum as a way to provide storm-safe emergency housing that could be transformed into permanent dwellings.

(Photo of Katrina cottage by Samantha Bearden from MississippiRenewal.com)