Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 21, 2012

Housing complex opens just in time for holidays

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

WURTLAND — The new 38-unit Foothills Riverside complex in Wurtland is filling up fast with new tenants, many of whom have been desperately in need of affordable housing for a long time.

Residents began moving into the complex, built by Appalachian Regional Housing, in early October, and it is expected to be full in the coming weeks.

Appalachian Foothills Housing Agency is a nonprofit that focuses on providing safe, decent affordable housing and economic opportunities for low and moderate income families.

The complex is 42,077 square feet and has eight single bedroom apartments, four three-bedroom apartments and 26 two-bedroom apartments all furnished with new appliances.

James Ealey was the first resident to move in in early October, just in the nick of time, he says.

Ealey, 50, had been living in his car for the previous three months.

“I don’t know where it would have led to for me, being out of the employment picture and winter coming on,” he said. “I am just so grateful. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me an opportunity to have a roof over my head. Everybody has their own story, why they are here. Mine is just another story.”

In 2010, at the age of 49, Ealey’s heart began failing. Unable to work after spending years as a union laborer, the Army veteran became homeless last January. He moved into his car late this summer after living with relatives for months, relatives who still help him to pay for his medication and the modest rent and utility payments in the new apartment.

“It’s all I need,” he said of his new home, noting he was able to get his possessions out of storage after more than two years. “It’s just been a roller-coaster ride for me. I still don’t know where it’s going to lead from here, but I am grateful for these people who worked so hard to get me in here as soon as they were completed.

“It’s just great to have stuff like this,” said Ealey of the nonprofit agency, noting again that there are many people like him who are struck by unforeseen ailments or circumstances that change their economic circumstances in a heartbeat.

“It’s been really hard to go from having to not having and these people (at AFHA) have made a big difference,” he said. “I am just grateful to them from the bottom of my heart. God bless them.”

The $12 million housing development, along Riverside Boulevard in Wurtland, will also eventually include the Riverside Cottages, a sister complex of 32 units for seniors ages 55 and over. It will be completed by March, ahead of schedule.  

Both projects were built through a combination of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits as well as a $760,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

Demand for affordable housing is high.

In July, there was a waiting list of more than 200 for the new units. According to Diane Blankenship, the agency’s director, the waiting list is typically 300 to 500 for residents in Greenup, Carter and Elliott counties, where AFHA administers HUD’s section 8 rental assistant program.

Blankenship stressed the agency is always taking applications for all of its housing programs. To apply, contact AFHA at (606) 836-0911, extension 10.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.