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Affordable Housing Helps Disaster Recovery in Phil Campbell, Alabama

Photograph of the front façade of a 1-story duplex with four 2-story townhouse buildings in the background.
The Village at Oliver Place includes 22 two-story townhouses and 2 ADA-accessible units in a one-story duplex. Credit: Community Action Partnership of North Alabama

In April 2011, one of a series of tornadoes ripped through northwestern Alabama, devastating the rural communities along a path 132 miles long and more than a mile wide. In the small town of Phil Campbell in Franklin County, the tornado damaged or destroyed approximately 60 percent of the town’s buildings, including all of its public housing and much of its affordable housing, and displaced more than 25 percent of its 1,100 residents. In the aftermath of the storm, the newly formed Phil Campbell Recovery Committee created a long-term community recovery plan that prioritized rebuilding the town’s housing, including its affordable housing. The community’s recovery efforts include the construction of The Village at Oliver Place, a 24-unit townhouse development that is helping the community meet the recovery plan’s goals.

Storm Devastation

The National Weather Service determined that the storm that tore through Phil Campbell was a category EF-5, the highest level on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds exceeding 200 mph causing extensive damage. In the Phil Campbell vicinity, the storm killed 28 people and injured many more, and property damage was estimated at $119 million. Among the 400 damaged or destroyed structures were three-quarters of the community’s businesses, the school, most municipal buildings, and much of the town’s affordable housing, including all 42 units of public housing. In total, 138 residences were destroyed and 175 were determined to be unsafe.

After the Storm, a Plan

After the storm, local officials invited the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Long-Term Community Recovery division to provide technical assistance and help coordinate the recovery efforts of state agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and HUD and other federal departments. Resident volunteers formed the Phil Campbell Recovery Committee, which worked with their neighbors and local, state, and federal partners to create a long-term community recovery plan. The plan focuses the community’s efforts and resources on critical recovery projects, including housing. The housing goals in the recovery plan include residents’ wishes for “adequate, safe, accessible permanent housing for everyone in the community,” particularly affordable rental opportunities. Encouraging development in Phil Campbell was difficult, however; as Michael Tubbs, chief executive officer of Community Action Partnership of North Alabama (CAPNA), explains, “Very few private developers will go into a rural area.” In the absence of market-driven development activity, CAPNA, the largest nonprofit affordable housing developer in Alabama, stepped up and purchased many storm-damaged properties to build affordable housing. One of the properties that CAPNA acquired was an L-shaped, 3.27-acre parcel on the west side of town. In June 2013, CAPNA secured financing for the development, and construction began at the end of that year.

Affordable, Energy-Efficient Townhouses for Families

CAPNA completed construction of The Village at Oliver Place in December 2014. The townhouse development comprises 5 residential buildings, including 22 two-story units and 2 accessible one-story units. Designed for families, 14 of the units have two bedrooms and 10 have three bedrooms. Each unit includes ENERGY STAR®-certified appliances and energy-efficient insulation, doors, and windows. The Village also includes a clubhouse with a community laundry facility, computer center, and exercise room. The community’s outdoor amenities include a gazebo, playground, and picnic area with grills. To protect against injury and fatalities during future tornadoes, hurricane clips securely fasten the roofs to the walls and straps connect the walls to sill plates bolted to the foundations. In addition, CAPNA is raising funds to construct a 48-person tornado shelter on a nearby site.

The units are affordable for households earning 50 to 60 percent of the area median income, with monthly rents of $369 for a two-bedroom unit and $438 for a three-bedroom unit. Leasing started at the beginning of 2015, and nine units were occupied by June.

Photograph of a gazebo and picnic area with a community building and townhouses in the background.
Amenities at The Village at Oliver Place include a community center, gazebo, picnic area with grills, and playground. Credit: Community Action Partnership of North Alabama

Financing

The development cost of The Village was $4.2 million. In addition to $2.7 million in low-income housing tax credit equity contributed by Raymond James Corporation, financing included $600,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, $580,030 in HOME Investment Partnerships program funds from the Alabama Housing Finance Authority, and a $267,200 loan from Bank Independent.

Continuous Recovery

After the April 2011 tornado, a reporter suggested that Phil Campbell might never recover, but the resilient community has been working on its recovery for the past four years. Only four months after the storm, the city council adopted the recovery plan. Now, signs of recovery are apparent throughout the community. All of the town’s public housing units have been rebuilt; many businesses are operating again; and the school, government buildings, and churches have been rebuilt or repaired. The affordable housing provided at The Village at Oliver Place has been an important contribution to the town’s recovery. And there is more to come; CAPNA plans to build a community park on land near The Village. On the other side of town, CAPNA has acquired 12 acres to build single-family houses for purchase or lease to purchase, with the first home expected to be built in fall 2015. Phil Campbell’s population is growing, a sign that the community’s plans for recovery are being realized.

Source:

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2011. “Phil Campbell, Alabama Long-Term Community Recovery Plan,” 1, 6–7, 35–36. Accessed 16 July 2015; Document provided by Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama; Interview with Michael Tubbs, executive director, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, 6 July 2015; Correspondence from Michael Shafer, 6 July 2015.

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Source:

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2011. “Phil Campbell, Alabama Long-Term Community Recovery Plan,” 6, 35. Accessed 16 July 2015; Document provided by Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama; Correspondence from Michael Shafer, 6 July 2015.

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Source:

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and Federal Emergency Management Agency. November 2011. “Phil Campbell, Alabama Long-Term Community Recovery Plan,” 1, 35. Accessed 16 July 2015; Document provided by Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama; Interview with Michael Tubbs, 6 July 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Alisha McElroy, due diligence coordinator, DSI Real Estate Partners, 22 July 2015; Correspondence from Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, 9 and 22 July 2015; Interview with Michael Tubbs, 6 July 2015.

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Source:

Document provided by Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama; Correspondence from Michael Shafer, 9 July 2015.

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Source:

Correspondence from Michael Tubbs, 8 July 2015; Correspondence from Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, 23 July 2015.

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Source:

Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and Federal Emergency Management Agency. November 2011. “Phil Campbell, Alabama Long-Term Community Recovery Plan,” 73. Accessed 16 July 2015; Correspondence from Michael Shafer, housing and community development leader, Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, 9 and 15 July 2015; Email from Michael Tubbs, 8 July 2015; U.S. Census Bureau. 2014. “PEPANNRES Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014 Community Survey 5-Year Estimates,” American FactFinder. Accessed 12 June 2015."

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