Partnership Housing helps Owsley County, Ky.

The Ratliffs and staff of Partnership Housing. In the front row, Charlie and Jacob Ratliff. In the back row: Kaycee McKinney, AmeriCorps member working with Partnership Housing; Cassie Hudson, executive director of Partnership Housing; Rachael Marshall, housing coordinator and counselor for Partnership Housing;Ashley Ratliff, husband Jeffery and son Ryan.

 

One of the poorest counties in the nation, Owsley County in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Kentucky puts up troubling housing numbers – more than 80 percent of homes in the county date from before 1990, and more than a quarter are mobile homes. There are still homes that lack plumbing and telephone service.

Against this backdrop, the nonprofit Partnership Housing Inc. has worked to tackle housing issues there. In less than three years, Partnership Housing as built 29 new homes and has completed more than 100 repairs and renovations.

And Partnership Housing has found a partner in FHLB Cincinnati.

“We have a very large housing need in Owsley County,” said Cassie Hudson, executive director of Partnership Housing. Owsley County has no housing agency. Her organization works on repairing homes – roofs, windows, furnace, septic systems, insulation, new doors – with an emphasis on improving home safety and keeping people in their homes.

“You go in and address the most important things, and you prevent homelessness,” Ms. Hudson said. When someone’s home becomes unlivable or unsafe, “they move in with family members, or they become homeless.”

Partnership Housing has tapped the FHLB’s Carol M. Peterson Housing Fund for $232,458 to help with home repairs, and has been awarded two Affordable Housing Program grants of nearly $180,000 to help build eight new homes.

The FHLB grants “have helped give us opportunities to do more projects in our county, and fill more needs,” Ms. Hudson said. “It has allowed us to build more homes. Without that gap financing the homeowners would not have qualified for financing. The AHP grants decrease the amount of permanent financing they have to have, which makes for more affordable house payments, and more security of being able to make their house payments.

“By making home payments more affordable, there’s more money in their pockets to pay their other bills or spend in the community.”

One recent recipient are the Ratliffs of Booneville – dad Jeffery works in a local factory, mom Ashley works for a social agency transporting local residents to medical appointments. The Ratliffs and their three boys had been living in a 30-year-old double-wide that was deteriorating. It needed new plumbing, floors and a furnace. They worked through Partnership Housing to acquire a new home.

They moved into a cozy new three-bedroom home this fall. “It’s meant everything to us,” Ashley said after moving into her new home. Monthly utility bills have gone from $400 to $500 in their previous home, to under $200 in their new home.

“We love it. If it hadn’t been for Partnership Housing and the FHLB, we probably couldn’t afford it,” Jeffery said. The FHLB grant “was a godsend.”

Partnership Housing has worked with Farmers State Bank of Booneville, Ky., on applying for FHLB affordable housing grants. “They’ve been great,” Ms. Hudson said. “They’re very community oriented. They’re always there to assist us. If you’re passionate about your community, like Farmers State Bank is, you’re going to serve people.”

At $50 million in assets, Farmers State Bank is one of the smallest FHLB members participating in AHP. “We’ve got experienced lenders who’ve participated in this for years,” said CEO Angie Woods.

“We’re more than happy to take part,” she said. “It gives a young couple the opportunity to own a home. It’s tough coming up with a down payment and being able to afford a nice place to live, even if you are working full time.

“The end result is really what you look at – having a good family find a home of their own.”