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Robeson County was one of the hardest hit areas in the state when Hurricane Matthew roared through in October 2016. More than 650 families were displaced as water from the Lumber River overran the levee and flooded hundreds of homes and apartments. Lumberton’s First Baptist Homes, which provides affordable housing to senior citizens with annual incomes less than $17,000, was devastated by the floods.

Sarah McLean, First Baptist Homes property manager, and Lucinda Williams, Sr. Vice President at Multifamily Select. Photo credit: Molly Osborne/EducationNC

Residents of all 81 units were forced to evacuate, many losing everything they had in the flooding. Henry Cutler, a resident at First Baptist Homes for three years, lost boxes of photographs of his parents, his children, and his childhood. This loss was compounded by a fear among residents that the units simply wouldn’t be rebuilt because the cost of repair was too high. As First Baptist Homes Property Manager Sarah McLean worked tirelessly to relocate residents to live with family or in temporary housing, Lucinda Williams, Senior Vice President of Multifamily Select (the property management company), focused on the possibility of rehabilitating the 81 units that low-income, senior residents called home.

First Baptist Homes residents. From left to right: Annette Kravitz, Lola Smith, and Henry Cutler. Photo credit: Molly Osborne/EducationNC

Williams connected with the Initiative to explore options to secure the $2.3 million needed to repair, operate, and manage the temporarily vacant properties. Together, they crafted a financing strategy that involved a grant of $430,049.39 from the Initiative that leveraged additional funds from a flood insurance payout and HUD reserves to cover the full cost of repairs and related debt—mortgage payments that could not be met because residents were not paying rent. Williams shares “If we didn’t get that grant, our mortgage would still be delinquent. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts.”

All the residents who’d been living in hotels or with families were resettled in their refurbished units by July 2017. Henry Cutler described his return home as “almost like getting to heaven.”