A new Metro program that would establish a $50 million gap financing housing fund for Nashville flood victims in need of home repairs could be launched in the coming weeks.
Delivering an update to Metro Council members on Monday, Loretta Owens, executive director of the nonprofit The Housing Fund and member of Mayor Karl Dean’s Flood Recovery Team, said revenue streams are lining up to allow Davidson County flood victims to pick up applications to rebuild homes under the program by as early as July 6.
Though Metro officials are still finalizing details, the purpose of the program is to offer aid in the form of zero-interest loans or grants to flood victims who still have expenses for home repairs even after receiving federal assistance. Owens said more than 2,500 Nashvillians are in need of additional assistance, with the average gap — or repairs not taken care of through federal aid — totaling $20,000 per homeowner.
“Virtually every flooded community that we’ve looked at has ended up having some sort of gap in financing,” Owens said.
The first chunk of the $50 million pool came in the form of two federal grants totaling $6 million that were approved last week by the Metro Council. Another $40 million would be carved out of a still-pending federal supplemental appropriations bill that must clear the U.S. House of Representatives.
The hope is for the remaining $4 million to come from groups such as The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which has been the chief collector of Nashville’s flood donations. Owens met with representatives of The Community Foundation yesterday to discuss the nonprofit’s role in the housing fund program. The group still hasn’t officially signed on with the plan.
“I think we’re pretty close to having the first $10 million,” Owens said of the program. “We do feel like we need sufficient funds to start the program. Timing? We actually are operating at the Metro Office Building. We have housing coaches there all the time. Essentially, later this week we expect to get a lot more calls, and we will go ahead and start scheduling a time when people can come in and get an application right after the Fourth of July holiday.”
Only 3 percent of the some 22,000 Davidson County residents who have applied for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been given $29,900, the maximum assistance provided by the agency. The average amount of FEMA aid to each applicant has been $3,000. Even Nashvillians who have supplemented FEMA assistance with a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration are in some cases looking at rebuilding costs that exceed an additional $40,000.
“When we’re thinking about who is going to be able to rebuild, we’re talking to people everyday who are saying, ‘We don’t know where we’re going to get the money to do that,’ ” Owens said.
The scenario has played out across the county, Owens said. One family in the Pennington Bend area, for example, received only $19,000 in federal assistance when the actual cost of repairs has been projected to be $39,000.
“That’s all they could get,” Owens said. “So, they have a $20,000 gap. Through this program, we may be able to fill that gap.”
At-large Councilman Charlie Tygard, who resides in the hard-hit Bellevue area, said the key is to begin making dollars available to flood victims even if they come in incremental chunks.
“These people are in tears because all they’ve seen so far is bottles of water and cases of bleach,” Tygard said of some flood victims. “And they see all this money flowing into various nonprofits, and none of it’s getting into their hands.”
The Community Foundation has so far issued $469,000 in flood-related grants focused on long-term recovery in Nashville, dollars that have been delivered mostly to nonprofits and other outreach groups throughout the city.
The Community Foundation’s Nashville disaster fund has another $1.3 million that hasn’t been allocated, a figure expected to rise following tonight’s “Nashville Rising” benefit concert.