HDA Building New Homes for Flood Survivors

Nonprofit encourages those in Breathitt, Knott & Perry counties to apply

HAZARD, Ky. (Feb. 17, 2023) – The July 2022 flood left behind a trail of destruction in Breathitt, Knott, and Perry counties (as well as other areas of Eastern Kentucky), with hundreds of people wondering what to do next. Now, at nearly seven months since the flood, many, if not most, of the people affected have not found an answer to that question.

According to the latest FEMA data, over 400 homes in those counties were destroyed, with nearly another 1,130 structures reported as moderately or majorly damaged.

“The need is so huge it’s almost overwhelming,” said Scott McReynolds, the executive director of the Housing Development Alliance (HDA), a nonprofit affordable housing developer based in Hazard.

He continued, “Literally overnight, hundreds of people lost everything they’d worked so hard for, and now, they’re struggling to rebuild their lives.”

Thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, HDA is currently building 12 new homes for flood survivors – 4 new homes each in Breathitt, Knott, and Perry counties.

McReynolds said his nonprofit has funding available to build a total of 20 new homes for flood survivors this year.

  • In Breathitt County, where HDA owns property just off Highway 30 East at Peach Tree Lane, there are plans to build 7 flood survivor homes. So far, 4 of the 7 lots have been sold. They also have property near Whick.
  • In Knott County, HDA is currently building 4 flood survivor homes on land near Hickory Hill Recovery Center in Emmalena.
  • In Perry County, HDA is currently building flood survivor homes in the Blue Sky Subdivision near Wendell H. Ford Airport and one in Willard. Of the 3 homes under construction, one is complete, with the family expecting to move in by the end of the month.

HDA is also building flood survivor homes in other locations in these counties and is actively looking to buy more land.

Every effort is made to keep the homes affordable, with the homes being financed partially by grants and partially by a mortgage loan. Officials at HDA say the size of the mortgage payment depends on the size and style of the home, the location of the home (and whether land had to be purchased), and the income of the flood survivor.

“Of course, we know that the people whose homes received the most damage or were destroyed by the flood are the ones with the least resources and will struggle to replace the home they had,” McReynolds said. “That’s why we’re working with each flood survivor individually on a proposed financing package specific to their situation.”
Knott County flood survivor Arvin Johnson explores an HDA home under construction with his children. Arvin hopes to purchase the finished home and provide a new home for his family sometime this spring.

For McReynolds, the most important thing is to get folks to higher ground and provide a quality home that will stand the test of time.

“We’ve said all along that we want to get this recovery right,” he said. “This is about more than just providing shelter. People are still living in travel trailers, sheds they’ve converted into tiny homes, popup campers, and such. While those shelters meet today’s need, they’re only meant to be temporary.”

The houses HDA builds are high quality, affordable, energy efficient homes, McReynolds explained, and the homes can be built in subdivisions, on property owned by HDA, or on property the flood survivor owns so long as the property is not in the floodplain or in a flood-prone area.

After flash flooding in the spring of 2021 and the historic flood in the summer of 2022 affected many of the same areas, HDA wants to make sure flood survivors live in safer places.

“If we’re smarter and take the time and the resources to build outside of those flood-prone spaces, we will mitigate some of the risks for the next time,” Gerry Roll, CEO and Executive Director of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, told Southerly Magazine in a recent interview. “Because there will be a next time. And we don’t want to put people back in harm’s way.”

Flood survivors in Breathitt, Knott, and Perry County are encouraged to contact HDA to find out more about the programs offered to them. While the number of lots at each location is limited, HDA can build homes elsewhere in each county if suitable land is available.

Getting a home built through HDA is not a quick fix, McReynolds cautioned, noting that the process can, in some cases, take up to a year or longer. Still, McReynolds believes it’s worth it, but advises potential buyers to also be thinking about having a good temporary solution while their new home is being built.

“Each house is a promise of hope for a family. 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,” McReynolds said. “We hope to help as many people as we can as much as we can and as fast as we can. They just need to reach out and let us see if we can help them.”

Flood survivors in Breathitt, Knott, and Perry counties interested in having a home built through HDA should call 606-436-0497 or email pam@hdahome.org.

Flood survivors can also apply online here.

Have questions? Check out this video answering the most burning questions HDA has received. 

About Housing Development Alliance, Inc.
Serving Breathitt, Knott, Leslie, and Perry counties, the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) is a 29-year-old nonprofit housing developer that serves as lender, counselor, developer, and contractor for low-income persons in need of housing assistance. We work with multiple organizations within the Federal, State, and Local governments and in the private sector to help individuals break down barriers to access the resources they need to build financial stability through affordable housing. For more information, visit www.hdahome.org.

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