HAZARD, Ky. — With thousands of homes destroyed by the flooding in Eastern Kentucky and a shortage of permanent housing options where people can rebuild their lives, some of Eastern Kentucky’s community organizations are stepping up and working together to create solutions from the ground up.
Crews with the Housing Development Alliance in Hazard are feverishly working to build new homes within just a few weeks, each across several counties in the area.
In normal times, the HDA builds affordable, energy-efficient homes for lower-income families, helping them secure grants and special low-interest government loans that will make their mortgages affordable.
Now, HDA Director of Development Mindy Miller says her team is pulling double duty to do the same for flood survivors.
“What we’re trying to do is keep these homes as affordable as possible,” Miller said. “So anytime we get materials donated to us to build the home, we use those. We use volunteer labor to keep down on labor costs.”
Thanks to a large grant from the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, the HDA is building 12 new homes for flood survivors across Perry, Knott and Breathitt Counties, which will be ready for move-in soon.
Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky Executive Director Gerry Roll says her group has doled out more than $10 million to families, businesses and groups focused on rebuilding—without all the red tape and waiting that comes with aid from FEMA.
“For many people we’ve heard them say, ‘This is, you’re the first money I’ve gotten—you’re the first person who listened to me,’” Roll said.
While builders wait for the state to provide its funding for new homes, Roll approved a $1.2 million housing grant, making the work the HDA is doing possible now.
“We’re not big time developers swooping in to say, ‘We’re going to build 200 homes on this big, flat spot. Come get one!’ That’s not building community, and that’s not what we do. But we can help build neighborhoods,” Roll added.
Besides the 12 homes the HDA is building in Perry, Knott and Breathitt Counties, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky’s $1.2 million grant is also allowing the nonprofit Homes, Inc.to build four new homes for flood survivors in Letcher County.
The homes aren’t free, but the groups will work with buyers to apply FEMA money and SBA loans they may have received after the flooding, as well as subsidies, to get mortgage payments down to a price they can afford. The groups can also help families avoid needing to pay a down payment.