Bowling Green housing shortage adds to struggles for tornado survivors

Tornado Survivors Struggle to Find Available Rental Properties
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:25 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Displaced tornado survivors are still searching for temporary homes and struggling.

Housing was already an issue in Bowling Green and Warren County because of quick growth in recent years and the tornadoes wiped out 500 houses and apartments and damaged another 500. It will takes months if not years to rebuild.

“With COVID and then the tornadoes, I mean the market it just is - it’s incredibly scarce as far as trying to be able to find rental properties,” said Megan Walden, Select Property Management Leasing Manager.

Six weeks later and tornado survivors are still held up in hotels, staying with friends and family, some out of state.

“I really need to get in a place and I need to get in a place soon because I need to get my life back,” said Lauren Douglas, Bowling Green home was destroyed in December tornadoes.

Lauren Douglas’ home was destroyed in the tornadoes. She has struggled even finding landlords to approve her rental application.

“You know, the housing that I had, I had well over six months of housing, stable housing and that doesn’t count. Even though it’s not my fault that I don’t have it anymore. I didn’t cause the tornado,” Douglas said.

Douglas was given $1,300 from FEMA for housing. The Red Cross has gotten her into a hotel, but what’s next for her and her daughter?

She says not only can she not find a unit in her price range, but can hardly find a unit available at all.

“It’s a little bit concerning that, you know, the Government that’s there to help you is not reaching out to people that they know were affected and that’s not me, but they now, ‘Ok this company has seven hundred tenants, we know that they had a lot in that area.’ I mean, we had buildings that were completely flattened. Luckily we did have no fatalities during the tornado, but with that being said, who’s helping these people? I don’t know,” said Walden said.

Local officials estimate 4,000 or more residents in Bowling Green alone were displaced.

Select Property Management in Bowling Green manages more than 700 homes, and of those, only 11 single family homes and apartments remain.

On top of the shortage, many who have applied for FEMA have been denied.

Due to the increased rental prices, FEMA says they will provide 125% of the rental rates in order to get people back into rental properties. For example, if your rent is $800 per month, you would receive $1,000, but that’s only if you’re approved by FEMA.

Kentucky residents who applied for FEMA disaster assistance must have been affected by the Dec. 10-11 severe storms and tornadoes and live in one of these 16 counties: Barren, Caldwell, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor or Warren. Here are some common reasons why you may not qualify for FEMA programs:

  • FEMA assistance would duplicate benefits from other sources. FEMA cannot provide financial assistance when any other source, such as insurance, has provided assistance for the same disaster-related need or when such assistance is available from another source. For example, FEMA cannot pay for home repairs if the homeowner is already receiving funds from his or her insurance company for the same repairs. If you have already received funds from another source for your disaster recovery, FEMA may find you ineligible.
  • FEMA also does not provide replacement-value amounts for damaged items or assistance with non-essential items. FEMA provides assistance only for repairs to make a home safe, sanitary and functional. FEMA assistance is not a substitute for insurance.
  • There is more than one application filed for your household. Only one application per household is considered.
  • FEMA was unable to verify that you are the homeowner. FEMA requires proof of ownership from disaster survivors who apply for federal assistance to help them with repairs to their damaged homes. FEMA verifies ownership by means of automated public and government records or by using documents you submit. FEMA may also verify ownership at the time of inspection. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must submit documents that prove ownership along with your signed appeal letter. Documents you can use to verify ownership:
  • Deed or title
  • Mortgage document
  • Homeowner’s insurance documentation
  • Property tax receipt or tax bill
  • Manufactured home certificate or title
  • Home purchase contracts (e.g., Bill of Sale)
  • Last will and testament (and death certificate) naming you the heir to the property
  • FEMA was unable to verify your occupancy. FEMA verifies occupancy by means of automated public and government records or by using documents submitted with your application. FEMA may also verify occupancy at the time of inspection. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must submit documents that prove occupancy along with your signed appeal letter.
  • FEMA could not verify your identity. FEMA must be able to verify your identity. By verifying identity, FEMA prevents fraud and ensures you receive eligible disaster assistance. FEMA verifies identity by means of automated public and government records or by using documents submitted with your application. To appeal FEMA’s decision, you must submit documents that prove your identity along with your signed appeal letter.
  • The damaged home may not be your primary residence. FEMA will provide disaster assistance to eligible applicants for a primary residence. FEMA will not consider more than one primary residence for a survivor and his/her spouse. FEMA defines your primary residence as the place where you live for more than six months of the year.
  • You have not submitted required documents or information. Read your FEMA mail carefully. Respond promptly with the information FEMA is seeking. If that information is not available, explain why to FEMA.
  • Insufficient damage: Your home is safe to occupy. There was insufficient storm-caused damage to your home, or the damage to your home does not affect whether you can inhabit the home. Damage to non-essential areas, landscaping or spoiled food is usually not covered for FEMA assistance.
  • You reported no damage to your home. If you have applied for federal disaster assistance but you reported you have no disaster-caused damage to your home, FEMA will find you ineligible for assistance.
  • You do not wish to move while repairs are made. If the FEMA inspector concludes that your home uninhabitable due to disaster-caused damage, you may be eligible for FEMA Initial Rental Assistance. If you said at the time of inspection that you’re not willing to move while your damaged home is being repaired, you will not be eligible for FEMA temporary rental assistance. If your housing needs have changed, however, contact FEMA quickly to update your housing and explain why you have a need for rental assistance.
  • Renters: If you live in an apartment and the owner requires you to leave so repairs can be made to the apartment or building, you should update your status with FEMA. You may be eligible for assistance.
  • A FEMA inspector was unable to reach you at the contact information you provided. You must return FEMA phone calls and requests for information in a timely manner. If FEMA cannot make contact with you, or you do not provide the requested information, FEMA may find you ineligible.
  • You failed to meet with the inspector. It is important that you carefully read all FEMA mail. You or a representative you designate to FEMA ahead of time must be present at any appointments with FEMA officials, or FEMA may deny your application. If you still need an inspection, call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 and request an inspection.
  • If you disagree with a FEMA decision, you have a right to appeal. Submit your signed appeal letter in writing.
  • Click here for more on How to Appeal FEMA’s Decision:
  • The deadline to apply for FEMA disaster assistance is Friday, Feb. 11.
  • For official information on Kentucky’s recovery from the tornadoes, visit Follow FEMA on Twitter at FEMA Region 4 (@femaregion4) / Twitter and at

For more on the FEMA appeals process, click here.

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