Hope Building Sells First Home in Breathitt County

Program builds affordable housing for those in the middle

JACKSON, Ky. (May 2, 2023) – When it comes to buying affordable housing, help is often available for those who are low-income, but for middle-income people, who make just a bit too much money to qualify for assistance, many are often left out in the cold.

For Amber Roark, a local nurse and single mother of 3, finding housing she could afford was not easy. Rent in the area was too high, she said, and she made too much money to be eligible for any housing assistance or for the income-based Homeownership Program at the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) in Hazard.

HDA, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, builds, on average, 17 to 20 new homes each year for low-income people in Breathitt, Knott, Leslie, and Perry counties, but to own one of those homes, a person must fall into an income range that establishes them as low-income. These requirements are determined by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

“I made too much money (to get an HDA house),” Roark said. “I cried, because I thought, oh my gosh, we’re not going to get a home now.”

But then she was told about Hope Building, another program at HDA, that builds homes for people in the middle, selling the houses on the open market.

“There’s still some confusion and misinformation out there about the program,” said Shannon Gabbard, Director of Hope Building. “While HDA does focus much of its construction efforts on homes for low-income people, we also work with middle-income families towards buying an affordable home through our Hope Building Program.”

In its first 3 years of operation, the program has built 10 affordable homes for middle-income people. Now, thanks to Roark, it has built and sold its first home in Breathitt County.

According to HDA officials, the program is called Hope Building not only because it offers the hope of owning a home to those often left out of housing assistance programs, but also because it offers hope to the crew that builds them. Hope Building offers paid, on-the-job training in construction to men and women in substance use recovery.

“I’m not an addict, but I have friends and family who are. So, I was really excited about the possibility of getting a home through this program,” Roark said. “I felt like it gave me a purpose, like it was supposed to be a part of my journey.”

Roark’s journey included looking at various homes on the local market. Whether pre-owned or new, Roark said the homes all had hefty price tags of over $200,000, and the most affordable ones she could find required another $10,000 to $20,000 for repairs. The Hope Building Program offered her the opportunity to own a new 4-bedroom/2-bath home of over 1,400 square feet for significantly less.

Amber Roark's new home near Jackson, KY

“Not only do you get to help other people change their lives and do something that’s worthwhile and that helps them, but look at what you get,” Roark said, pointing to her new home.

She added, “There’s nothing else you can get that’s as nice as this, in this price range, anywhere. It doesn’t matter that I’m a nurse and make decent money now; I can’t get something like this by just going out there and buying it. You can’t.”

When she first saw the finished home, she was overwhelmed and couldn’t make it through the front door without crying. Lindsey King, the assistant trainer for Hope Building and who is also in recovery, rushed over to comfort her.

“We’ve built a lot of houses for a lot of people,” King said to her that day. “Every time I’ve hit my thumb with a hammer or gotten a bruise, it’s been worth it because of this one moment right here.”

Lindsey with Lead Trainer Matt Pratt
Lifting the First Wall
Framing Begins
Amber's Home Completed
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Roark and her children moved into the home just before spring. Though the July ’22 flood pushed back the home’s completion date, Roark said she felt that everything had happened just the way it was meant to happen.

“It’s all been in God’s time, not mine,” she said. “There were so many times when I thought it just wasn’t going to happen, but here we are – we made it!”

“If this program hadn’t been an option for me, I’d still be living in a single-wide trailer, paying $850 a month rent,” she continued. “But now, we have a brand-new home! It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever had. And I can afford it. It means everything to us.”  

HDA’s Hope Building Program continues to build homes on spec and homes that are custom-built. For middle-income folks who are interested in owning a Hope Building home, call Shannon Gabbard at 606-436-0497 or email shannon@hdahome.org. Flood survivors who are middle-income are also encouraged to apply.

More information about the homes constructed by Hope Building can be found online here.

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