Clay Mountain Housing, Inc. (CMHI) began in 1988 after Clay County, WV was one of three regions in the state featured in a study that brought to light the struggles of families who live in substandard homes. Two women, Kathy Britt and Clara Deyton, decided to take action to address the tremendous housing need in the impoverished county that was revealed in the study and formed Clay Mountain Housing. After securing funding for the organization, the women began working out of their cars, visiting families who needed housing improvement and learning about the housing loan and construction process.
CMHI assists elderly, handicapped, low-income families and property owners who are income eligible for housing services such as rehab, repair or ownership. The process of securing a housing loan for a family begins with a "pre-application" that allows a family to explain their housing needs and provides the opportunity for financial counseling. The family's needs are assessed and then they are given steps to take to move the loan process forward, with CMHI providing guidance along the way. The families learn how to manage their meager resources to enable them to repay a housing loan.
The rural nature of the county, the lack of adequate jobs, poor education and a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence among the population are the main factors contributing to the housing problems in the area. Although West Virginia ranks high in home ownership rates, many of the homes are old trailers or substandard, dilapidated homes. Clay County, with a population of 9,400 and a per capita income of about $6,500, has little industry and few viable businesses. The public school system is the largest employer in the county. Workers not employed by the school system generally earn between six and eight dollars an hour, wages that are insufficient to buy a new home or to afford monthly rent.
To make home ownership affordable, the lenders will apply various interest payments or a use a fixed percentage of the family's income. All families receive financial and home ownership counseling before and after the loan closing. CMHI's goal is to assure the families that their loans for home repair, home rehab or home ownership are successful experiences.
CMHI's efforts are having a measurable impact on the community. In 1996, the organization helped to build six new homes. In the summer of 1997, CMHI participated in Hammering in the Hills, a joint project of FAHE Groups and Habitat Humanity. Together, the groups built 150 new homes in the Appalachian area of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee during the summer of 1997. CMHI again participated in Hammering in the Hills in 1998, in addition to completing several home rehabs and building several new homes.
At the local level CMHI works with other local agencies through Clay County Interagency Meetings. As part of a five county CAE designated Enterprise Community, CMHI works with housing groups from surrounding counties. At this present time CMHI is working directly with interested citizens in Roan County, assisting them in establishing a local nonprofit housing group in their county.
CMHI is directed by a Board of Directors of whom more than half are eligible for the services of the organization. The day to day operations are managed by the Executive Director. Presently, eleven people are employed by CMHI, and according to WV Housing Development Fund, CMHI is longest operating grass roots community housing organization in the state of West Virginia.