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Just 20 more houses remaining for West Virginia RISE flood relief

Six years after a devastating flood, West Virginia is within reach of rebuilding homes for hundreds of people who lost theirs.

West Virginia hopes to complete about 20 remaining homes through RISE West Virginia early this fall, said Jennifer Ferrell, director of community advancement for the state Economic Development Office.

Of those remaining, 12 are already under construction.

Jennifer Ferrell

“We still anticipate to have everything finished by the end of September in our housing program,” Ferrell told the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding during a Sunday afternoon interim meeting.

West Virginia has completed 367 housing projects as of June 1, she said. Along with that work, the state has completed 46 bridges and 54 demolitions.

The June 23, 2016, flood devastated much of the state.

Twenty-three people were killed. There were 1,200 homes destroyed, and thousands were without power, according to state assessments. The flood damaged businesses, roads and water and sewer systems.

West Virginia was awarded $149 million in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

West Virginia made its request to start using the money on Jan. 29, 2018. HUD gave its OK on Feb. 20, 2018.

And for many months, RISE West Virginia drew criticism for its slow pace of administering flood relief as HUD officially designated the state as a “slow spender” for its pace.

By now, Ferrell said, West Virginia has spent $90.7 million of the funds made available through HUD.

Dean Jeffries

Delegate Dean Jeffries, R-Kanawha, asked whether state officials track how long people stay in RISE homes after receiving them.

“They’re required through their agreement to not sell the home within three years,” Ferrell responded. “So we will periodically check back throughout the three years.”

Jeffries asked about whether those residents are able to afford flood insurance since they are also locked down to keep ownership of the homes.

“A lot of these people never had to pay that before. They never had to pay homeowners insurance that high before. They’ve got a nice, brand new home in a flood plain, and it’s going to be significantly higher homeowners insurance. Are we talking 90 percent of these people are having trouble, 80 percent? Do we know?” he asked.

Ferrell couldn’t immediately specify but agreed that’s a problem for a significant number of people who have been provided with new housing. She acknowledged to Jeffries that even those who can’t afford to pay for flood insurance may remain in the homes.

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