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Gurney’s Bend Panel

Images from Council of State Community Development Agencies (COSCDA)

The housing-education pipeline is being reimagined in the small town of Hazard, Kentucky. Gurney’s Bend — a partnership between the Housing Development Alliance (HDA) and the city of Hazard, Kentucky — brings 15 single-family affordable houses to a city that had not seen a new development in 50 years.

Located in eastern Kentucky, #2 in the Energy Communities IWG’s top 25 priority communities, Hazard has seen a long decline in coal mining. Starting in the 1910s, coal became a major economic driver for the town. In the 1920s, Hazard became the major mining center in the southeastern coalfields of Kentucky.

With a 30% poverty rate and a median income approximately half the national average, Hazard has been seeking solutions to provide its citizens with better, affordable housing. Thanks to programs such as the Berea College Appalachian Fund and the Hope Building Project, citizens are able to achieve funded internships and opportunities that help teach needed skills and provide job training and references that aid in building and maintaining affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

This property was previously home to an abandoned strip mall and, before that, a coal mining site. Until recently, the area hadn’t fully recovered from the loss of business and jobs. The city of Hazard, with the help of a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), bought the property, tore down the old building, cleared the land, ran water and sewer lines, and added an access road and sidewalks. In 2021, it sold the land to HDA at a remarkable discount, allowing HDA to afford construction in a county where the cost to build a home often exceeds the home’s appraised value.

In just 15 months, all 15 homes were built and move-in ready. This project was funded by a multitude of additional public and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) and the U.S. Department of Energy.

USDA RD’s Rural Partners Network (RPN) is an alliance of federal agencies and commissions working directly with rural communities to expand rural prosperity through job creation, infrastructure development, and community improvement. RPN is active throughout Kentucky building community capacity and making it easier for communities to navigate the federal government.

The Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization (Energy Communities IWG) is charged with advancing an interagency commitment of robust federal leadership in direct partnership with energy communities to foster economic investment and revitalization and ensure the creation of good-paying jobs. The Energy Communities IWG has identified billions of dollars in funding to support transitioning energy communities to help revive their economy for the future. Investments in projects such as Gurney’s Bend help ensure new jobs and opportunities will become available in all pockets of America. 

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