New Knott County community planned to aid eastern Kentucky flood survivors
Months after flood waters in eastern Kentucky damaged towns, destroyed homes and displaced residents, a new site plans to provide community on safer ground.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced Tuesday afternoon that a new land development is planned in Knott County to provide flood survivors with long-term housing and other services. Initial plans for the Olive Branch Community include homes with large and small lots, senior apartments, and an elementary school.
The property is located in the Talcum community on flat land above the region’s flood plains. The state received the 75-acre property from Shawn and Tammy Adams.The site could eventually expand to almost 300 acres.
Beshear said projects on the site could use state money including the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, which has raised more than $12 million, as well as the Eastern Kentucky State Aid Fund for Emergencies, and state transportation and federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
He added that development is expected to begin early next year.
“It’s gonna take time because we want to build it right. We’re gonna have to improve water treatment facilities and build roads and utilities, but our families deserve the very best,” Beshear said.
Beshear added the state is viewing more properties in Brett, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties to consider similar projects. He said those counties make up about 75% of homes lost to the disaster, which killed 43 people.
Earlier this month, the Kentucky Lantern reported Beshear said his administration was negotiating to acquire eastern Kentucky property for impacted communities on higher ground and outside of flood plains. Beshear also told reporters that nearly 700 residents in the region were being housed in travel trailers provided through the Commonwealth Sheltering Program, born out of last year’s western Kentucky tornado relief efforts.
In August, the Kentucky General Assembly approved a $212 million relief package for residents impacted by July’s devastating flooding. Hazard Republican Sen. Brandon Smith unsuccessfully pushed to add $50 million to the bill through an “affordable housing program,” though further funding could be discussed when state legislators return for regular session in January.
Scott McReynolds is the executive director of the Housing Development Alliance (HDA), a nonprofit that builds and repairs homes in the region. He said it’s important for residents to have dependable living spaces.
“We’ve said all along that we want to get this recovery right. We do not want to settle for just a box… We want them to have high-quality, long-lasting energy-efficient homes.”
McReynolds previously said more than $600 million was needed to build and repair an estimated 2,300 homes impacted by the disaster.
Beshear added Tuesday the state was allocating $600,000 from the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund to build eight homes in the region through a partnership with HDA and Homes, Inc., a group that builds affordable housing and is based out of Whitesburg.
He also announced it was providing $200,000 in a partnership with Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky toward a $800,000 effort to repair about 80 homes in eastern Kentucky using the flood relief fund.