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The Red Cross has updated its “disaster assessment” for Hurricane Katrina and also has provided an assessment for Hurricane Rita. The two hurricanes destroyed an estimated 356,000 housing units, with 353,000 attributed to Katrina. This was more than 12 times the number destroyed in any previous natural disaster (or series of disasters) in the nation’s history.

Furthermore, 146,000 units suffered "major" damage (not currently habitable), 184,000 had "minor" damage (could be occupied) and an additional 206,000 had "extremely minor" or "nuisance" damage such as a few missing shingles or broken windows. Four-fifths of the "destroyed" housing units (uninhabitable and beyond repair) are in Louisiana and nearly one-fifth are in Mississippi, while Alabama and Texas got off quite lightly in this regard. Total damaged housing units (needing major, minor or extremely minor repairs) amounted to 329,000 in Louisiana, 173,000 in Mississippi, 33,000 in Texas, and about 1,000 in Alabama.

The Red Cross has been trying to categorize destroyed or damaged homes by type of unit. Current estimates say 88% of destroyed units are single-family homes, 11% are apartment units and less than 1% are manufactured homes.  Census Bureau numbers, on the other hand, show that about 15% of the housing stock in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama consisted of manufactured homes in 2000.  Thus, it's likely that the Red Cross has been categorizing many destroyed or damaged HUD-code housing units as conventionally built single-family homes.

Whatever the exact numbers, it's perfectly clear that the cleanup, repair and rebuilding process in the wake of  Katrina and Rita will be immense and that the implications for residential maintenance and repair, spending on improvements (including replacements of major systems), manufactured home shipments and conventional housing starts are profound. The timing and composition of the process will depend heavily on the pattern of government responses.

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