Housing shortage in Bowling Green increases battle for tornado survivors

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) — Survivors of the displaced tornado are still looking for temporary homes and struggling.

Housing was already a problem in Bowling Green and Warren County due to its rapid growth in recent years and the tornadoes wiped out 500 homes and apartments and damaged another 500. It will take months if not years to rebuild.

“By COVID and then the tornadoes, I mean the market it just is — it’s incredibly scarce as far as trying to find rental properties,” said Megan Walden, Select Property Management Leasing Manager.

Six weeks later, tornado survivors are still being held in hotels, with friends and family, some out of state.

“I really need to go somewhere and I need to get somewhere fast because I need to get my life back,” said Lauren Douglas, Bowling Green’s home was destroyed by December tornadoes.

Lauren Douglas’ home was destroyed in the tornadoes. She’s even struggled to find landlords to approve her rental application.

“You know, the housing I had, I had housing for over six months, stable housing and that doesn’t count. Even if it’s not my fault I don’t have it anymore. I didn’t cause the tornado,” Douglas said.

Douglas received $1,300 from FEMA for housing. The Red Cross got her into a hotel, but what now for her and her daughter?

Not only does she say she can’t find a unit in her price range, but she can hardly find a unit that is available.

“It’s a little concerning, you know, the government that’s there to help you isn’t reaching out to people they know are affected and I’m not, but now they’re like, ‘Okay, this company has seven hundred tenants , we know they had a lot in that area.’ “I mean, we had buildings that were completely flattened. Luckily there were no deaths in the tornado, but that being said, who’s helping these people? I don’t know,” Walden said.

Local officials estimate that 4,000 or more residents have been displaced in Bowling Green alone.

Select Property Management in Bowling Green manages more than 700 homes, of which only 11 are single-family homes and apartments left.

On top of the shortfall, many who applied to FEMA have been rejected.

Because of the increased rents, FEMA says they will provide 125% of the rents to get people back into rental properties. For example, if your rent is $800 a month, you’ll receive $1,000, but that’s only if you’re approved by FEMA.

Kentucky residents who have applied for FEMA disaster relief must have been affected by the severe storms and tornadoes of December 10-11 and reside in one of these 16 counties: Barren, Caldwell, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor of Warren. Here are some common reasons why you may not be eligible for FEMA programs:

  • FEMA aid would duplicate benefits from other sources. FEMA cannot provide financial assistance where another source, such as insurance, has provided assistance for the same disaster-related need or where such assistance is available from another source. For example, FEMA cannot pay for home repairs if the homeowner already receives money from his or her insurance company for the same repairs. If you have already received money from another source for your disaster recovery, you may not be eligible for FEMA.
  • FEMA also does not provide replacement value for damaged items or assistance with non-essential items. FEMA only provides assistance with repairs to make a home safe, hygienic and functional. FEMA assistance is not a substitute for insurance.
  • More than one application has been submitted for your household. Only one application per household will be processed.
  • FEMA cannot verify that you are the homeowner. FEMA requires proof of ownership from disaster survivors applying for federal aid to help them with repairs to their damaged homes. FEMA verifies ownership through automated public and government records or by using documents you submit. FEMA may also verify ownership at the time of inspection. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must provide documents proving ownership along with your signed letter of appeal. Documents you can use to verify ownership:
  • Deed or title
  • Mortgage document
  • Homeowner insurance documentation
  • Property tax or assessment notice
  • Manufactured home certificate or title
  • Home purchase contracts (e.g. sales invoice)
  • Last will and testament (and death certificate) naming you the heir to the property
  • FEMA cannot verify your occupancy. FEMA verifies occupancy through computerized public and government records or using documents submitted with your application. FEMA can also check occupancy at the time of inspection. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must provide documents proving the occupation, along with your signed letter of appeal.
  • FEMA cannot verify your identity. FEMA must be able to verify your identity. By verifying identity, FEMA prevents fraud and ensures that you receive eligible disaster relief. FEMA verifies identity through automated public and government records or using documents submitted with your application. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must provide documents proving your identity along with your signed letter of appeal.
  • The damaged home may not be your main residence. FEMA will provide disaster relief to eligible primary residence applicants. FEMA will not consider more than one primary residence for a survivor and his/her spouse. FEMA defines your primary residence as the place where you live for more than six months of the year.
  • You have not submitted any required documents or information. Read your FEMA email carefully. Respond quickly with the information FEMA is looking for. If that information is not available, please explain to FEMA why.
  • Insufficient damage: Your home is safe to live in. There was insufficient storm damage to your home, or the damage to your home has no influence on whether or not you live in the home. Damage to non-essential areas, landscaping, or spoiled food is usually not covered under FEMA aid.
  • You have not reported any damage to your home. If you’ve applied for federal disaster assistance, but you’ve reported no disaster-related damage to your home, FEMA isn’t eligible for assistance.
  • You do not want to move during the repair. If the FEMA inspector concludes that your home is uninhabitable due to calamities, you may qualify for: FEMA First Rental Assistance. If you have indicated during the inspection that you do not want to move while your damaged home is being repaired, you are not eligible for temporary housing benefit from FEMA. However, if your housing needs have changed, contact FEMA promptly to update your housing and explain why you need rent assistance.
  • Tenants: If you live in an apartment and the owner requires you to leave the apartment to make repairs to the apartment or building, you must update your status with FEMA. You may be eligible for help.
  • A FEMA inspector was unable to reach you at the contact information you provided. You must respond to FEMA calls and requests for information in a timely manner. If FEMA is unable to contact you, or if you fail to provide the requested information, you may not be eligible for FEMA.
  • You have not met the inspector. It is important that you read all FEMA mail carefully. You or a representative you designate at FEMA in advance must be present at all appointments with FEMA officials or FEMA may reject your application. If you still need an inspection, call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 and request an inspection.
  • If you disagree with a FEMA decision, you have the right to appeal. Submit your signed letter of objection in writing.
  • Click here for more about Objecting to FEMA’s decision: https://www.fema.gov/press-release/20220118/how-appeal-femas-decision.
  • The deadline for applying for FEMA disaster relief is: Friday 11 February.
  • For official information on Kentucky’s recovery from the tornadoes, visit fema.gov/disaster/4630. Follow FEMA on Twitter at FEMA Region 4 (@femaregion4) / Twitter and at facebook.com/fema.

Click here for more information on the FEMA appeals process.

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