Inspired by its role in the Washington County New Build project in Dry Creek, the Tennessee Housing Development Agency has launched a new statewide grant program to help communities struck by disasters.
In Johnson City Thursday to announce the extension of a state home loan assistance program for veterans, THDA Director Ralph Perrey said in an interview at the Johnson City Press that THDA is impressed with the public-private partnership through which Washington County leveraged a $300,000 THDA grant into $3 million in assistance for flood victims.
“Our thought was there are many small communities hit by disasters that don’t rise to the level that (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) would step in, and we’ve created our Rebuild and Recover program for that end,” he said.
“It may be a variety of things based on what’s needed and what’s appropriate (like) small grants like the one we made to Washington County, lending flexibility with our mortgagers or emergency housing assistance short-term.
“It’s a variety of things that can be done with our partners at local banks, the Federal Home Loan Bank in Cincinnati (and) foundations ... with our expertise in home financing.”
The Rebuild and Recover program was approved by THDA on March 27 and will be put to work first in McNairy County, where the Bethel Springs community was hit hard by a wind storm on Jan. 29.
“We visited them and are extending a $175,000 grant. And they’ve already lined up $500,000 in matching funds.”
In Washington County, THDA’s $300,000 grant for Dry Creek flood victims has been combined with grants to individual homeowners from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati and private donations gathered by the nonprofit Appalachia Service Project to replace up to 40 homes destroyed by the flood.
ASP anticipates 25 new homes will be built in the community before the Aug. 5 anniversary of the flood and more homeowners will be assisted as insurance issues are resolved and more applications for individual grant assistance are made.
“In Dry Creek, your mayor, (Dan) Eldridge, and the community did the heavy lifting and we were happy to play a role,” Perrey said.
“The work in Dry Creek inspired us. Now when those kind of things happen in small communities, rather than go through our board, we have the structure in place. We hope it won’t be needed often. But when it is, we’re prepared to step in and help.”