Five months ago, if someone told you that hurricane-ravaged Louisiana would be a future hot housing ticket, you would've said “no way”—or questioned that person's sanity. Maybe in a decade's time, but certainly not anytime soon, especially with the immense devastation the state endured. Believe it or not, though, the Louisiana housing market isn't in a state of gloom and doom. Crystal ball aside, the Pelican State is in for a big real estate comeback—and it's bound to be sooner rather than later.

It's far from breaking news that Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage to the Gulf Coast, including parts of Louisiana—most notably the Greater New Orleans area—Mississippi, and Alabama. Shortly after the storm hit last August, the Red Cross estimated more than 240,000 homes were destroyed in Louisiana, as well as 240,000 in Mississippi and about 1,700 in Alabama.

Most of the residents evacuated and sought shelter in other states. Some plan never to return to their old stomping grounds, whether for fear of another disaster or because they have nothing left to come back to. Others are busy making a new place seem like home.

Builders can see the potential. Evacuees are going to need homes. The key is knowing in which areas to build—and rebuild.

TAKING IT IN: KB Home's Bruce Karatz (left) surveys the damage in New Orleans with Steve Davis, who has been tasked with heading KB's new Gulf Coast region. Home building giant KB Home is answering that call. KB recently formed a joint venture with engineering and construction firm The Shaw Group to begin building homes in Louisiana. The long-term strategy is to provide permanent housing and increased economic development to the state. Heading up the joint venture is New Orleans native and KB Home veteran Steve Davis, who will serve as the builder's Gulf Coast region president.

Davis and his team already scooped up 3,000 acres in the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, an industrial area south of the Mississippi River across from downtown New Orleans. KB plans to break ground this year on its first project—Churchill Farm—says Caroline Shaw, the builder's senior vice president of corporate communications.

Shaw recently visited the city. “Every time I go to see New Orleans, I am encouraged by the progress I see,” she says. “Much still needs to be done, but things are moving in the right direction.”

Another big builder, D.R. Horton, is said to be checking out the market, too. Some reports state the builder already has snagged lots in Baton Rouge. Still, no official announcement has been made (see “Gulf View,” page 26).

Call it a hunch, but increased housing activity is bound to happen in Louisiana, with builders carefully hunting down land to rebuild a battered state and ignite its struggling economy.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA, Baton Rouge, LA.