R. Scott McReynolds
Housing Development Alliance Executive Director
R. Scott McReynolds, a native of Georgia, came to the hills of eastern Kentucky as a volunteer with the Appalachian Service Project (ASP) and never left. He came to build and repair, improve and transform, but his determination to help mountain people, many of whom were trapped in generational poverty, would extend far beyond a thatched roof or some mended porch steps.
He became the executive director of the Housing Development Alliance (HDA), a nonprofit affordable housing developer in Hazard, Ky., in 1994. Twenty-seven years later, he still leads the agency, which has grown from a staff of one to a staff of 31, with a full, highly experienced, and talented crew of carpenters that routinely builds 18 to 20 new homes for low-income families each year. Under his leadership, HDA has completed 300 new homes and over 800 home-preserving repairs for low-income homeowners across four counties (Breathitt, Knott, Leslie, and Perry – four of the poorest counties in the country), and it has developed 39 affordable rental units.
For Scott, a home is not just a roof over someone’s head; it’s a portal to a better life, a brighter future, and to more opportunities. A home – a good, lasting, high quality, forever home (the kind HDA provides) is where life’s journey begins and can, in fact, act as a lifelong sustaining force for those who have called it home. The most significant moments in a person’s life happen at home, and perhaps most importantly, home determines so much about a human life, right down to who you are and what you can be. “Putting a family in a new home never gets old,” he has said. And that’s where Scott’s impact is greatest – he is changing the narrative in eastern Kentucky by shaping the individual stories of men and women, children, entire families, and whole communities.
Scott still works alongside volunteers and his staff of carpenters as they build home after home, and quietly, he has secured and successfully administered over $50 million in state and federal grants. With his guidance, HDA has invested over $55 million back into the local economy and added $35 million to the local tax base, resulting in over $350,000 in local tax revenue. In addition, 80 local jobs are supported by HDA’s work. All told, HDA has served over 2,800 people with Scott at the helm, and over the next decade, he doesn’t plan on slowing down, determined to serve 1,000 more.
In 2019, HDA launched Hope Building, a new program offering paid, on-the-job construction training for men and women in recovery. Scott’s vision for this program is that it will not only teach trainees the skills they need to secure and maintain a job, but that it will also allow them to give back to the community by building new homes for middle-income families, who often fall just outside the income range for the housing help provided by HDA's Homeownership Program. In December of 2019, Hope Building’s first group of trainees completed construction on their first home. The home sold early the next year.
From events spearheaded by Scott, like the HDA Repair Affair, which involves HDA carpenter-led volunteer groups of over 100 people making home repairs for local families living in Perry County who cannot afford them, and the Community House Raising, which brings people from all over the community together to build a home for a local family who could not, on their own, realize the dream of having a brand-new house; to the boards he serves on (Fahe, the National Rural Housing Coalition, and the Appalachian Impact Fund), the articles he writes for national publications, demanding that the nation understand the plight of rural Kentuckians and the housing crisis it’s currently experiencing, and the countless hours he spends traveling and speaking and asking for funding and support for affordable housing in Appalachian Kentucky – Scott advocates daily and passionately for the region and its people.
Scott serves the community in various other ways, as well, from coaching a youth soccer team to helping another local nonprofit, Pathfinders of Perry County, preserve and create a complex, tourist-attracting web of local, mountain trails.
As the experience of community fades away from the American consciousness, R. Scott McReynolds is bringing folks together, cultivating a culture of hope, keeping mountain communities from dying away amidst a struggling economy and loss of population, and stabilizing thousands of eastern Kentucky families, all in an effort to revitalize a region, resurrect its proud regional identity, and preserve its place in the long history of a land that continues to shelter generations of survivors.
He is a leader, a selfless, public servant, and perhaps most movingly, Scott is an example to our young people and older people alike of what it really means to be an Appalachian.
Scott makes his home in the Krypton community of Perry County with his wife, Janet, their two children, and an extended family of dogs and cats.