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Disaster recovery group aims to assist Mayfield residents with rental needs

Lily Burris

The Mayfield-Graves County Long-Term Recovery Group is hoping to help fill the rental housing need created in the community in the wake of last December’s tornado outbreak.

The group’s new program aims to get 25 families into 25 homes by Christmas.

Mayfield-Graves County LTRG executive director Ryan Drane —, whose contract with the group was recently renewed — detailed the plan during a Tuesday meeting. Of the housing in the Mayfield community that was destroyed by the December disaster, Drane said, about 70% of it was rental housing.

“We have many renters that are still living in hotels, still living in camper trailers, still living with friends and family that are essentially homeless,” Drane said. “I define them as homeless because they don't have a next step besides the temporary location that they’re in right now.”

Drane acknowledged the work of other organizations who have been trying to fill temporary housing needs with things like trailers and tiny homes.

He also pointed out that landlords trying to rebuild are dealing with insurance agencies and the cost of building supplies which is also impacting the cost of rent. The way forward, Drane said, is for the group to actually purchase vacant homes in the county.

“These do not have to be tornado-damaged homes, but they do need to be vacant,” Drane said. “We're going to utilize our partner network to make necessary repairs to those homes.”

The plan is to rent these homes to people in need of housing in the community at a discounted rate after a financial analysis. Drane said people will be connected with these homes through the group’s ongoing case management work as it already includes financial analysis. After a year, the group plans to give the renters an option to purchase the house as long as they complete homeownership classes, keep up with their payments and maintain the house.

If a home is sold to the occupants, the rate will be set on the cost at purchase and any capital spent on the home, not the market value. This means donations and volunteer hours will not be calculated into the costs. The homes will be placed into a land trust.

“We're also going to partner with the Energy and Environment Cabinet [and] post disaster architectural and engineering professionals, which we've already been talking to for several months, to repair the homes to the same resiliency measures as the current new builds,” Drane said.

Group leadership hopes this will lead to safe improvements to homes as well as plans to improve energy efficiency.

The group is looking at a variety of types of homes to fit the varied needs of renters in the community.

“It's not been done to scale anywhere in the country post-disaster like this. They've done multi-unit, but not single-family, so we realized this is a big, a big chore,” Drane said. “But we know that with our existing partners, with our existing civic organizations, our churches, our donors, and just those that want to find a project and lend a hand, that we can pull this off as a community.”

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Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Western Kentucky University, worked at the College Heights Herald, and interned at Louisville Public Media during her time there. In her free time, she enjoys reading, crocheting and baking.
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