Recovering from the 2022 Eastern Kentucky Flood
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.
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.
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:
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