Design Guidelines and Funding for Elevating Historic Homes in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Region

This guidance document was prepared by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) to ensure that recipients of MDA financial assistance programs are able to rebuild structures damaged by Hurricane Katrina in compliance with historic preservation laws and safety considerations. In addition, the guidelines were developed in accordance with a Programmatic Agreement between MDA and the federal government in order to streamline project reviews under the National Historic Preservation Act and expedite federally-funded retrofits. Because Hurricane Katrina destroyed many historical buildings, the document stresses the preservation of those that remain. The guidelines balance the policy goals of risk reduction through elevation against architectural elements that maintain the character of buildings. 

The guidelines were informed by a 2008 Programmatic Agreement (PA) between MDA and the federal government to improve the state’s ability to implement retrofits funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program. State actions funded by the federal government must comply with statutes like the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) to minimize negative impacts to historical resources. Early in the process to administer funding, MDA and the federal government agreed to a decisonmaking framework in the PA — which is reflected in the guidelines for property owners — that could simultaneously expedite the review of many grant applications under the NHPA and minimize the negative impacts of retrofits to historic structures. The PA and guidelines, if followed, are an example of how a state can streamline post-disaster environmental compliance for historic structures retrofitted with federal money.

Notably, the guidelines limit the total height of elevation for historic buildings so they maintain their historic character in relation to other historic buildings within each local historic district, thus protecting the architectural qualities of each historic district as a whole. The document provides preservation goals for each part of the elevation process and lists examples of modifications that do not adhere to the MDA grant guidelines.

The guidelines begin with a general overview of the two MDA financial assistance programs: the Homeowner Elevation Grant Program (EGP) and the Small Rental Assistance Program (SRAP). EGP provides grants up to $30,000 to homeowners to elevate or replace a single family residence. SRAP provides loans up to $30,000 to owners of properties containing 1-4 units for repairs, reconstruction, and rental income subsidy assistance.

The Site Design Guidelines chapter list tips to help grant recipients understand and plan around non-architectural site features, like water and vegetation. It also makes suggestions for parcel layout and landscaping that are sensitive to historic preservation goals.

The Architectural Design Guidelines chapter discusses considerations regarding neighborhood urban design context, elevation alternatives, architectural features, and data needed for designing elevation plans. 

The Foundation Design Guidelines chapter identifies engineering factors for designing new foundations for elevated buildings and includes illustrated approaches to foundation screening.

The Elevation Design — Next Steps chapter summarizes the process for designing a new elevation plan and illustrates elevation approaches for some of the most common historic buildings on the coast.

The Resources and Publications chapter includes reference material that may be useful in designing an elevation plan. It also identifies the status of historic districts and locally designated landmarks within each jurisdiction. 

The Mississippi Development Authority prepared this guidance in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and with the support of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


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