Disaster Recovery

Recovering from the 2022 Eastern Kentucky Flood

See more info on what HDA is doing to help our community here.

Our community has suffered two major floods within 18 months – the first in the spring of 2021 and the second in the summer of 2022. Many families had just recovered from the previous flood when their home was flooded again. While the flood of July 2022 has been declared a “thousand-year flood,” that does not mean it won’t happen again for a thousand years. In fact, our region has seen numerous “unprecedented” rain events in recent years. It is clear that simply repairing and rebuilding homes where they were is a short-sighted, inadequate, and dangerous solution.

Our Plan

Higher Ground: Guiding Principles for a Lasting Recovery

If we, as a community, can get recovery right, then our recovery efforts will be a huge step forward in our efforts to overcome persistent poverty and the other socioeconomic challenges we face. However, if we as a community get recovery wrong, it will only serve to reinforce and accelerate many of the long-term challenges we face. We offer the following principles for a recovery that moves us forward: 

Justice & Equity

We know that people of color, female-headed households, low-income households, and other marginalized communities are often most vulnerable to natural disasters due to past housing and lending discrimination and household wealth gaps. We also know that historically, these communities receive less assistance following natural disasters. We will strive to make our recovery just and equitable.

Creating Housing Outside the Floodplains & Flood Prone Areas

People rush to repair and rebuild housing in flood prone areas because there are no other options they can afford. Even people who would prefer to move away from potential floods will stay put simply because they have no other choice. Therefore, we will strive to create enough new housing in areas safe from flooding such that every person who wishes to move to higher ground can do so.

Maintaining Appalachian Communities

Our region is comprised of many small communities and “hollers”; many families raised on Troublesome Creek want to stay on Troublesome Creek and many families raised in Sassafras want to stay in Sassafras. Furthermore, we know that Appalachian homesteads have room for gardens, workshops, fruit trees, and outbuildings. Rebuilding efforts need to allow for and support these cultural preferences.

Abide By the Floodplain Regulations

Kentucky has existing floodplain regulations designed to protect people and personal property. These regulations can make it more difficult to re-house displaced people by limiting which houses can be repaired and where houses can be built/rebuilt. Our recovery efforts will comply with these regulations even when local enforcement is not aggressive.

Acknowledge the Inadequacy of Existing Floodplain Mapping

The majority of the homes impacted by this flood were not in the floodplain (100 or 500-year). When seeking to repair, replace, or rebuild flooded homes not in the floodplain, we will use science, commonsense, and other tools available to assess the likelihood the home will flood again. If a home appears likely to flood again, we will encourage the owners to move to higher ground either on their property or elsewhere.

Housing is More Than Shelter

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, finding warm, safe, and dry shelter for impacted families is absolutely critical. However, high quality housing can provide much more than shelter. High quality homes can provide an opportunity for low and moderate-income families to build wealth. Quality housing will be energy efficient, saving families hundreds of dollars per year in utility costs. Well-designed homes can provide adequate space for modern lifestyles including working from home and can allow aging-in-place. Quality housing will provide communities with a stronger tax base. Our long-term solutions must not focus merely on shelter but must provide quality housing.  

Housing is more than shelter.
Flood survivor home built by HDA.

The scope and scale of the need is such that no single solution will be sufficient for recovery. Therefore, we need a multipronged approach to recovery that includes:

  • Temporary Housing is Key

    One reason families rush to repair/rebuild where they are is because they have nowhere else to go. Many lack the resources to secure temporary housing. Even people with resources struggle to find temporary housing in our housing market. We know that moving people out of the floodplain and flood prone locations will take longer than simply repairing, replacing, or rebuilding in the same place. Therefore, having sufficient temporary housing is crucial. We cannot expect people to live in tents while we develop subdivisions and build new homes. Given the expected length of recovery efforts (five years or longer), some intermediate solutions are needed to bridge the gap between temporary and permanent solutions.

  • Develop Subdivisions on Higher Ground

    Given the number of families needing to relocate, subdivisions will be required to meet the need. We know from experience that many folks will happily relocate to subdivisions such as Gurney’s Bend, the development near the Wendell Ford Airport, and the development near Hickory Hill Recovery Center. When developing subdivisions, it is important to ensure that employment, education, shopping, recreation, and other amenities are available close by.

  • Smaller Place-Based Developments

    While larger subdivisions on higher ground will be part of the solution, we know that many families will want to stay in their communities where land is not available for large subdivisions. In these communities, we will build homes in smaller developments and on scattered sites that are not in the floodplain.

  • When Possible, Build on Higher Ground

    We know that many people have a strong tie to their land and will not move regardless of other opportunities. For families that wish to remain on property that flooded, we will seek to rebuild on higher ground on that same property. This will likely involve additional expenses including grading, moving/extending driveways, and relocating utilities.

  • Create Stronger, More Resilient Housing

    When floodplain regulations and common sense allow houses to be repaired, replaced, or rebuilt along creeks and rivers, we will strive to make these homes stronger and more flood resistant. This could include elevating structures, strengthening foundations and connections to foundations, installing flood resistant anchors on mobile homes, using additional flood resistant materials, and more. This requires understanding the different forces associated with flash flooding versus river flooding. Designs which easily withstand rising water might be inadequate to withstand the rushing water of a flash flood.

  • Rental Housing

    Approximately 30% of the households impacted by the floods were living in rental housing. Therefore, recovery must include developing a significant amount of rental housing. Like homeownership units, we will strive to develop larger rental projects as well as smaller rental projects located in flood-impacted communities.

Find out More About East KY Housing Damage.

In a new report from the Ohio River Valley Institute and Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, it is estimated that it will cost $450 to 950 million to rebuild the approximately 9,000 homes damaged by the flood that swept through southeastern Kentucky in 2022, depending on how many homes are relocated to less flood-prone areas.

Read the Report

Questions? Contact Us.

For more information on the Housing Development Alliance’s flood recovery efforts, contact HDA Executive Director Scott McReynolds:

Megan Cornett, Executive Assistant to Scott McReynolds
Office Phone: 606-436-0497

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