Oct 30, 2007

Katrina Kottage

I know they don't call them that, at least with the cutsey two "K"'s, but many of the larger hardware stores saw an opportunity and ran with it: micro-scale housing for displaced persons from the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

Every ready to turn a fast buck, the big boys drew up (or stole) plans for these tiny houses and started building them in their parking lots and anywhere there was fifty open feet to stand. When finished they are tossed onto small house-moving trailers and shipped all over the place, to state-owned single lots or whole Katrina Villages and dropped into place like pastel-coloured Lego blocks, where they are then filled by people who by hook or by crook no longer have a home.

(somehow I doubt they all look this lovely and story-book cozy.)

You'll have to forgive me if I sound a little flippant or less than compassionate, because honestly? I am. I've heard enough of the tales of woe and suffering. The cold fact remains that people living in New Orleans know that they live on land that was and still IS an average of five feet below the water table. If you die in New Orleans and plan on being buried there you will be placed in a mausoleum (a stone above-ground building to house your coffin) because sealed boxes placed in the ground act rather like beach balls held underwater--the moment you let go, it pops to the surface. Too. Much. Water.

Okay, enough ranting. *s*

The thing being, I see Katrina Kottages being shipped up the interstate most every day I care to look out the window. They usually go by in twos or threes, and they're always the same tiny design, and the same three pastel "Gulf Coast" colours--pale rose pink, a very light daisy yellow or a sort of middling pastel blue. They all have white trim, a tiny front porch (a staple of Louisiana life, the front porch) and an itty-bitty window air conditioner unit in the back. They all have such innovative features as a kitchen seating bench that doubles as a bed when you put a mattress on it and extremely cramped floor plans. Granted it IS a place to live and to call your own, and I know that the simple fact of having that can make all the difference, even if it DID arrive on wheels.

I've never had the opportunity to see one up close, however, until today, and even then it was up close at a distance. I was working at my Herculean pile of paperwork when I heard a distant train horn, and I decided it was time to take a three minute break and stretch my legs, so I stepped to the front door.

Kids, let me tell you this: Timing Is Everything.

I watched the train go by behind the treeline, and then heard over it's muted grumbling the roar of several big diesel trucks slowing ("jake-braking" they call it.) I looked over in time to see FIVE pastel blue Katrina Kottages in a long porch-to-a/c line pulling down the interstate off-ramp. Figuring they were going just up the road to the little Choke-N-Puke truck stop for fuel I quickly begged a five minute break, grabbed my camera, helmet and jacket and hopped onto Betty to see what was going on.

I didn't have to get far. Seems they had taken the off-ramp, crossed the little road there and gone back up the on-ramp and stopped. One of the Kottages had developed a flat, you see. (The white plastic is covering the front porches, I assume to keep road debris off them and to keep rocks and wind from blowing the front windows to flinders.

If you're curious, it's the third one in line there. I think you can probably just see two guys down there changing one of the tires. If you're REALLY sharp eyed (and if I had uploaded the 4MB original photo) you could also see the head of the driver of the second truck who had just let his two Dachshunds out of the cab for a fast pee, and followed them down into the ditch and behind the fence. I can only assume for the same reason.

I snapped a few photos and moved around to the hillock that forms the on/off ramp and took one more, into the sun unfortunately, but you can see one of the drivers standing in the shade of the last house, and get more of an idea of just HOW small those things are, and see the tiny window unit. I'm not sure what the larger bump is, perhaps a water heater or furnace unit.

By the time I had walked back down the hillock and was headed back to Betty they were already headed back up the on-ramp and on to their final destination. I'll give it to those guys, they are FAST. I'd not be surprised if they were the builders, too. I've heard that a well-trained three man crew can build one from a pile of lumber in a day, sunup to sundown.

Looking at the online plans I believe the ones I always see and photographed today either ARE the Lowe's 544 square-foot style or something very similar, as they seem to be missing one window.

So, there you have it. An important lesson in timing (always take a break to investigate interesting sounds) and in topography (don't live under the water table.)

Late update: I just watched two MORE blue ones head up the interstate to parts unknown, and saw the back end a little better--that's a back door snugged up against the a/c unit. I guess I forgot my basic house construction. Thank my lucky stars and garters I'm not a house inspector, eh?


Stucco said...

So what hazardous chemicals do these emit?

Irrelephant said...

Katrina victims. No wait, you meant BEFORE they're lived in...

Scott from Oregon said...

Mobile homes for the new and improved ghetto...


Irrelephant said...

You're talking some serious truth there, Scott.

Anonymous said...

These cottages, while not the best solutions in the world, are a cheap, easy replacement for terrible government provided trailers. No, they are not the most attractive homes in the world, but they look and feel more homey than unsafe trailers. New Orleans was not the only place affected by the hurricane. The majority of the gulf coast was, and are still feeling the effects.