By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It’s a juggle common to towns, especially college towns: how to foster affordable housing without losing too much in the way of aesthetics.
Colbert and Debbie Jones think they’ve found one small part of the answer with a development of 18 “Katrina cottages,” with several more soon to be added, just south of the city.
The Joneses bought the first of the 480-square-foot houses last year after Gulf Coast residents who’d survived the 2005 monster hurricane moved out of the cottages and into their own rebuilt homes.
“We’ve always been enamored with small houses,” said Debbie Jones. The couple’s earlier fascination shows in nearly a dozen houses adjacent to their own home in the College Hill community.
“We built in 2001 some small, one-bedroom, energy-efficient loft cottages that have front porches and back porches. They worked out well, and everybody liked them,” Colbert Jones said.
The Joneses first encountered Katrina cottages while on a post-hurricane mission trip to Bay St. Louis. The cottages combine a convenient floor plan in a design that could be factory built and trucked into the coastal regions while still reflecting the region’s traditional architecture.
“It’s compact. You’ve got everything you need – not a lot of space to clean, but plenty to enjoy, Debbie Jones said.
And while the houses are on wheels, they are built smaller, yet stronger, than conventional mobile homes, with metal seam roofing and 2-by-6 framing that allows for more insulation.
The community’s layout is also different from most mobile home parks. Front entryways with porches mean six cottages face each other, sharing a courtyard and a patio next to the clear-flowing creek. Cars remain outsidethe courtyards.
“We’re trying to get a human scale back,” Colbert Jones said.
Mitzi Blair, 51, a University of Mississippi graduate student in social work, has lived in the Katrina cottage community since June. The houses, she said, attract people who like elements of both sociable and private living.
“With the shared courtyard, it’s like a mini-neighborhood. Everybody knows everybody,” she said.
Even so, residents can shut out the world when they need to.
“I’m a nontraditional student, so I don’t hit the party scene like some younger students do,” Blair said.
One neighbor is a traditional student involved in the campus social scene.
“She’s a sorority girl, and she’s up there a lot,” Blair said. “But then she can have all the quiet she needs for studying here.”