Housing Development Alliance believes everyone should have a home they can afford.
Since 1993, they have been working toward this goal in four Eastern Kentucky counties. Each year HDA steadily built an average of 18 to 20 homes and repaired 60 to 65 homes. Then, in July 2022, the historic flood hit, completely destroying more than 400 homes and severely damaging at least another 1,130 structures in their service area alone.
This was an extreme setback to everything they had accomplished so far. They knew their work alone wouldn’t be enough to rebuild their communities. Across the 12 impacted counties, 2,300 homes must be replaced. Along with several partners, HDA launched a campaign with the rallying call of ‘Housing Can’t Wait’. The campaign initially began in response to the Kentucky legislature not allocating any flood recovery funds toward housing when they met in special session following the flood.
The coalition set their initial sites on building at least 100 new permanent homes. Now, in just seven months post-flood, 60 new homes are already complete or under construction, and more than 175 homes have received major rehabilitation. New federal funding to the tune of $300 million was recently announced for ten Eastern Kentucky counties in HUD disaster-assistance, and approximately $159 million in private and state funding has been raised so far.
Each and every week, HDA and their partners talk to dozens and dozens of reporters, meet with state and federal legislators and their staffers, and help share the stories of what residents are going through, to raise the resources and awareness needed to do this work, while also doing the work.
“Each house is a promise of hope for a family,” said HDA Executive Director R. Scott McReynolds. “What we don’t want to see is people giving up. We know they’ve been doing the best they can in circumstances they never thought they’d find themselves in. Our hope is to help as many people as we can, as much as we can, and as fast as we can.”
Though the coalition has raised millions, the cost of rebuilding and repairing housing due to this flood is estimated between $450 million to $950 million depending on how many homes are relocated to higher ground, according to an analysis by the Ohio River Valley Institute and Appalachian Citizens Law Center. There is still much to be done.
To create a long-term plan, they worked together to draft Affordable Housing Emergency Action Recovery Trust (AHeart), a proposal put forth by Fahe and Homeless and Housing Coalition of KY to the Kentucky legislature, outlining an investment strategy to respond to the natural disasters that have happened and that will continue to happen. If approved, these funds would be available for emergency home repair, new home builds, multifamily capital repairs, and technical assistance including housing counseling. AHeart would fund about 600 new homes annually for two-three years.
“People can’t wait for housing,” McReynolds said. “It’s the biggest unmet need of flood survivors. There was a housing crisis in Eastern Kentucky before the flood, and now, 8 months after the flood, we still have people, including children, living in travel trailers, sheds, and such. We know those folks don’t have the financial resources to replace the home they had. So, this is about more than shelter. This is a huge rebuilding effort, and to do it, we must have the funding. Our flood survivors deserve to have safe, high-quality homes they can afford and that are built to last.”
Quality, affordable housing has always been a critical issue in our region. The Mountain Association’s work to support small business owners and community leaders would not be possible without the several housing nonprofits in our region doing this foundational work. With this flood, we are proud to have been able to support HDA with a Flood Recovery Loan to help cover two of their organization’s vehicles lost to flood damage. These flexible loans are available to any flood impacted business or organization at 0% for the first 12 months and then 3.75% if directly impacted, with minimal principal payments, no origination fees, and no prepayment penalties.
If you are able to support HDA with any amount of donation, please find information here: https://housing-development-alliance.networkforgood.com/projects/183519-housing-can-t-wait-help-eastern-kentucky-rebuild