Housing issues slow down flood recovery process

WYMT Mountain News Weekend Edition newscast at 6 p.m. on Sunday
Published: Jan. 15, 2023 at 2:36 PM EST
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HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) - Finding a place to live was already an issue in Eastern Kentucky.

Hollows can only take up so much space between steep mountainsides.

“We don’t have a ton of flat property to build on. So, you know, you go through some urban communities and you got neighborhoods with hundreds of homes. We don’t have spaces traditionally to set that up the same way,” Hazard-Perry County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Zach Lawrence said.

The housing shortage has led to a slower recovery process for flood survivors.

“We got these people in these campers that are needing housing. A lot of have taken time to process it because they were in the campers, so they didn’t need it right then, and now that it’s coming along in the process, they need that and it’s not there for them,” Kentucky River Community Care Crisis Counselor Denita White said.

A lot of flood survivors would have to build from the ground up. The flood knocked houses off their foundations, and a lot of them were condemned.

To make matters worse, some survivors are relying on government assistance just to get back on their feet again.

“Yeah, I’d like to get back to my place, but I can’t do nothing until they settle with me,” flood survivor Ronald Noble said.

There have been local organizations answering the call. The Housing Development Alliance created the “Higher Ground” project aimed at building four new houses in each flooded county.

With that said, there is only so much one organization can do for an entire region.

“I think the hardest part about all of this is there’s no light switch you can flip to fix this issue immediately. Even if HDA is building homes, it takes so much to do that. So, it’s not a next day fix,” Zach Lawrence said.

Without an immediate fix and new concerns of where Eastern Kentuckians should and should not build, the recovery process continues to get longer.