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2000 Best Practice Symposium

Workshop Session Summary:
Disaster Recovery Using CDBG and HOME Funds

Turning Despair into a New Future

During the 1990s many cities throughout the country were unfortunate to experience first-hand the destruction and despair that follows a natural disaster. However, two cities and one state—Albany, Grand Folks and North Carolina—showed others how to make the most of a bad situation by using ingenuity, backed with CDBG and HOME grants.

In 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto left flood waters as high as 28" in the town of Albany, GA, which is located about 70 miles south Atlanta. The town was also hit by a tornado in 1995 and was flooded for a second time in 1998, resulting in the loss of the town’s major businesses and the flood plain, where most low-income housing was, covered by 10 feet of water. Having been hit by three separate, but brutal storms in a four year span required the evacuation of more than 24,000 residents and resulted in damage to 5,000 residential structures. To make matters worse, Albany has a high poverty level and a population that has been declining steadily since 1970. By utilizing CDBG and HOME funds, the Department of Community and Economic Development of Albany created the Affordable Homeownership Opportunity Program to help low-income families find safe, new or rehabilitated homes. The department also used these funds to establish a home buy-out program, buy and rehabilitate a variety of dwellings—multi- and single-family, work with community organizations (profit and nonprofit) to create new housing, and to attract businesses to Albany by building new shopping and child-care centers.

Although not hit by three storms, the entire community—some 50,000 people—of Grand Forks, ND, were evacuated (the town’s largest evacuations since the Civil War) in 1997 when the Red River flooded. When the river waters finally subsided, Grand Forks lost 250 businesses and 800 homes to the flood’s fury. Utilizing CDBG and HOME funds, Grand Forks’ Department of Urban Development, in order to breathe life in to the community, rehabilitated the downtown buildings, many of which were historic, that now house a variety of restaurants and shops. The department also purchased with CDBG funds an empty commercial building, located next to an industrial center that housed the modular homes which served as temporary housing for flood victims, and transformed it into a community center. After the families were moved into their new permanent homes, the community center was then used as an incubator for small businesses.

Towns, unfortunately, will have to battle the forces of nature and in the short term will lose. However, by communities working together, learning how other towns have dealt with a natural disaster’s aftermath, devastated communities—like Albany and Grand Forks—can once again rise from the ashes much like the mythical Phoenix.

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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