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Housing hurdles for tornado survivors 6 months after December tornadoes

Justin Pointer says the house they bought was only on the market for a day, and offered to pay more than what he would have paid before the December tornadoes.

BREMEN, Ky. — Almost exactly six months since the monster tornado ripped apart their home in Bremen, Justin Pointer, 37, and his family are finally moving into a new place to call home.

Pointer’s old house had to be condemned and was demolished, while his father’s place next door was completely ripped off its foundation.

They were all able to live past Dec. 10 because that night they huddled inside a prefab storm shelter Pointer’s dad had put in the ground years prior.

“That’s the number one question everybody asks me when they talk to me about this is ‘how are you still here?” Pointer said. “That’s (the shelter) why we’re still here.”

Without a home, Pointer and the family had to relocate to his sister’s house.

All that time, they were very motivated buyers.

“That’s what we did every day, it was go to work and then look for a place to live, whether it’d be rent or buy,” he said.

They bought a three-bedroom, two-bath for $124,000 in Central City.

Pointer says the house was just one day on the market when they made the offer, and offered to pay more than he would have for the house before the tornado.

“For the price I paid, I was expecting a lot more, but there’s really nothing out there right now,” he said.

Pointer calls house prices in the area “inflated,” and FOCUS found that the few houses for sale were listed for upwards of 45% more than what they sold for as early as six months prior.

“We’re still in an inventory crunch,” Jim DeMaio said.

DeMaio is the executive officer of the Realtor Association of Southern Kentucky located in Bowling Green.

Credit: AP
A Radio Flyer wagon lies among debris along Moss Creek Avenue Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Bowling Green, Ky. When a tornado touched down in Bowling Green in the middle of the night, its violence was centered on a friendly subdivision. Fourteen people died in a few blocks, 11 of them on Moss Creek Avenue. Entire families were lost, between them seven children, two of them infants. (AP Photo/James Kenney)

The December tornadoes also devastated that city, killing 16 people, including several children.

“We lost over 500 housing units,” DeMaio pointed out. “We heard that 65% of those were rental units.”

Therefore rent has gone up and so have home prices.

According to the association’s data, home sale prices in its seven-county region were up in the first four months since the tornadoes, and on average those prices are 19% higher over the same four months last year.

“It’s hurting some of our first-time homebuyers, low and mid-income buyers for sure,” DeMaio said.

It’s the basic business formula, high demand plus low supply equals higher prices.

“We are not building enough homes to keep up with our population growth in this area, especially in Bowling Green,” DeMaio said.

Despite the struggles and despite it being six months since there’s still help for displaced tornado survivors.

DeMaio says the National Association of Realtors, through its Realtors Relief Foundation, still has about a million dollars left to assist with mortgage payments and rent.

“So far we’ve given I think around $550,000 statewide for that,” DeMaio said. “That program is giving up to three months rental assistance, three months mortgage assistance with a cap of $3000 per household.”

To apply, click here.

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