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"Katrina Cottages" find post-Katrina uses as affordable housing, educational facilities, offices, & more

Kaid Benfield

Posted July 11, 2011 in Green Enterprise, Living Sustainably

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  Katrina Cottage (via Mississippi Renewal Forum)  Katrina Cottage on wheels (via Affordable Housing Institute)

One of the more creative ideas to emerge in those hectic (and, for some, tragic) days following Hurricane Katrina was the invention of “Katrina Cottages” (photos above), sturdier and to my eyes much more attractive alternatives to the FEMA trailers typically used to house displaced residents.  They are prefabricated and modular, and they can be constructed on site or placed on wheels and transported like conventional mobile homes.  They are also designed so that they can be anchored in place to become fixed, permanent housing.  There are now many variations, but these attributes are common to all.

I am proud to say that several of my friends were involved in the cottages’ design, under the auspices of a massive volunteer effort organized by the Congress for the New Urbanism called the Mississippi Renewal Forum.  I was greatly impressed by the entire effort.  I was also impressed by the cottages, in part because, where I come from, mobile homes are affordable housing for a lot of people.  If thoughtful design can improve the genre, that is much to the good in my opinion.  And, in fact, the concept is now being employed in an increasing number of applications beyond the original post-disaster concept.  (You can read the history of the Katrina Cottages here.)

  Cedar Street Cottages, Buena Vista, CO (by: Cedar Street Cottages)

As I result, I was intrigued and pleased to read recently that a developer is planning to recycle twelve of the cottages that are no longer needed as temporary housing, using them as permanent housing on an infill site in the town of Buena Vista, Colorado.  Dustin Urban writes on the developer’s blog:

“This unique infill project will feature 12 beautifully designed and built one and two-bedroom “Katrina Cottages” originally used as emergency housing after hurricane Katrina. With the majority offered for long-term lease, the cottages will offer downtown living within walking distance of schools, restaurants and shops. Located a block from East Main Street, the cottages will support a more prosperous Main Street business environment and will create a beautiful streetscape complete with sidewalks and street trees.”

This is terrific.  The developer’s principal project in Buena Vista, South Main, is interesting in itself, with green and fitness-oriented features.  One thing its housing does not appear to be, though - at least so far - is small.  Another part of the developer’s web site trumpets a large, custom-built Spanish Colonial house on “a large lot” with “South Main’s most sizeable private outdoor space to date,” apparently intended to be used as a part-time residence.

the first cottage at Seaside Academic Village (by: Seaside Institute)Meanwhile, in the iconic new urbanist resort town of Seaside, Florida, Katrina Cottages are being employed for a small educational facility.  (Photo left of the first cottage; go here for a 20-second video of it being transported into town and here for a six-second video of the first cottage being wheeled into place.)

Finally, Ocean Springs, Mississippi is home to a mature, mixed-use enclave of some 23 Katrina Cottages on a two-acre site called Cottage Square.  The project (below) was developed by architect Bruce Tolar and Enterprise Community Partners, the national affordable-housing organization.  Enterprise, which NRDC helped to establish an award-winning green housing program a few years ago, owns the project.  It was built as a demonstration of the potential of the cottages, especially when employed together as a neighborhood.

  Cottage Square (via Seaside Academic Village)

Tolar has an office in the project, which also hosts a hair salon and real estate office in addition to homes.  Lynn Lofton wrote in The Mississippi Business Journal:

“The group of cheerful-looking cottages with their white picket fences and welcoming front porches are making a statement about alternative living in Ocean Springs. Cottage Square is being developed on a two-acre plot on Government Street near downtown of this walkable town. Planners hope it will serve as a model for the concept of mixed-use zoning and affordable housing. The cottages, built in a coastal style and painted pastel colors, are built to hurricane codes . . .

Cottage Square site (via Google Earth)"’We work with local governments and developers to help provide housing,’ said Michelle Whetten, Gulf Coast director for Enterprise. ‘We were invited to participate by the Katrina Cottage Group because we share a lot of the same goals, and we wanted to demonstrate how these cottages can be used. We also share their emphasis for green, energy-efficient housing’ . . .

“She and Tolar believe the cottages are best when they're in a planned group such as this one. ‘They work best in a group with a mix of styles, uses and income levels,’ she said.”

I have written before about the potential for cottage-sized housing, and think the Katrina model has advanced the possibilities.  I hope it continues to catch on.

Here’s a very informative video tour of Cottage Square, discussing the cottages' history and showing how the neighborhood can support a sustainable lifestyle:

 

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page.

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Comments

Charles RoigJul 12 2011 03:38 PM

I would love someone to try these:
www.r-evolutionliving.com

GrannieJul 12 2011 03:56 PM

They are really cute. Look like beach cabanas.

SunwynJul 12 2011 04:17 PM

I love these. I wish I was living in one of them. They remind me of my childhood.

Dustin UrbanJul 12 2011 04:27 PM

Hey Kaid,

Thanks for covering our Cedar Street Cottages project here in Buena Vista!

I did want to address an inaccuracy in your comments about South Main, where you state "One thing its housing does not appear to be, though - at least so far - is small."

While there are a handful of bigger homes and mixed use buildings in our neighborhood, the majority are smaller, efficiently designed residences. If you subtract leased space (including Live-Work commercial space, Accessory Dwelling Unit rentals, etc) from building totals, you end up with an average owner's living space of 1,980 square feet. Our smallest home is a 740 square-foot cottage. In other words we encourage a diversity of sizes and efficient design. Our typical 2-bedroom plan is 1100 square feet, and we just finished a 1580 square foot 3-bedroom. As you know, the national average is around 2400 square feet.

Even the "Courtyard Home" you mentioned is designed efficiently and in such away that it can flex when the owners are away: there are three lock-off 1-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes that will also be vacation rentals when the owners are away. If you subtract the square footage for these lock-offs, the total owners' square footage not in use when they are away is 2,058. Including the lock off bedrooms, the home is 2900 square feet.

Anyhow, just wanted to give you and your readers the facts about home size in South Main. If you are ever in the area, look us up. We would love to have you visit. Cheers!

Kaid @ NRDCJul 12 2011 05:08 PM

Thanks for stopping by, Dustin.

Madelyn Griffith-HaynieJul 13 2011 08:22 AM

I love these little cottages, and applaud all concerned for design & implementation. I loved the walk-through (would love more seeing inside!). Listening to how they are now being "recycled" saddens me, however -- commercial, not residential -- as if no one could take them seriously as anything but temporary solutions to a temporary housing crisis.

Must it take a disaster - or a war - to inspire affordable housing? So now that the waters have receded, do these little homes become useful only as offices or vacation cottages - "outside the box" thinking now of rental possibilities when the owners are "away?" Perhaps too small to be taken seriously by those whose housing ideals are grander, somehow?

I hope not. These would be dream homes for so many. Make it so!

Madelyn Griffith-Haynie (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore - dot com)

Dana RichardsonJul 17 2011 12:44 PM

Does anyone know where I can purchase a small used Katrina Cottage or new already built? Thanks

South MainJul 19 2011 01:11 PM

In response to this comment about South Main, "One thing its housing does not appear to be, though - at least so far - is small."

I just want to offer the following information for the record.

While there are a handful of bigger homes and mixed use buildings in our neighborhood, the majority are smaller, efficiently designed residences. If you subtract leased space (including Live-Work commercial space, Accessory Dwelling Unit rentals, etc) from building totals, you end up with an average owner's living space of 1,980 square feet. Our smallest home is a 740 square-foot cottage. We encourage a diversity of sizes and efficient design, although we do not control it directly since all homes are custom. Our typical 2-bedroom plan is 1100 square feet, and we just finished a 1580 square foot 3-bedroom. The national average is around 2400 square feet.

Even the "Courtyard Home" mentioned is designed efficiently and in such away that it can flex when the owners are away, with 3 1-bedroom apartments that will be vacation rentals when the owners are away. If you subtract the square footage for these lock-offs, the total owners' square footage not in use when they are away is 2,058.

Anyhow, just some data about home size in South Main. If you are ever in the area, look us up. We would love to have you visit. Cheers!

Comments are closed for this post.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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