As Jennifer Gammon looked upon the wreckage that was her home on the morning of December 11th, she did not see what others did.
Gammon saw past the dozens of mannequin heads strew about the yard, the downed power lines, and even the wooden ceiling rafters now exposed from the caved in roof of their rented home.

The historic series of tornados that had swept through the Western Kentucky in December of 2021 had destroyed her what she had called home for the past 10 years. However, this did not stop Gammon from reflecting upon the life that her home had provided her family of four.

The corner home in the historic downtown district of Bowling Green, Ky was as Jennifer describes it, "a steal" her landlord "was good to her". The large front yard with trees and room enough for a bench swing was idyllic and the rent was extremely inexpensive compared to similar homes in the area.

"My children were raised in that house, my grandchildren were practically born there."

~ Jennifer Gammon

Now at the age of 49, Jennifer has moved into her first apartment complex, and although she has always been a renter, she now has significantly less space that her former home on Magnolia Street.

Bowling Green, Ky. has been growing at a consistent rate since the early 2000's. According to the 2020 United States Census Bureau over the last two decades Bowling Green has enjoyed a 2.64% annual growth rate, and is marked as one of Kentucky's fastest growing cities. Since 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population has grown by 12.3%, much of which is attributed to Western Kentucky University and job opportunities in the area.

With increase of population housing is a natural issue that arises, and in the past decade Bowling Green City-County Planning Commission has made adjustments to allow for expansion of the city.

The rapid expanse of Bowling Green and the monthly re-zoning of several properties to residential areas seems like it would have a positive effect on the home owners and rents of Bowling Green, however many citizens are discovering how difficult it can be to find affordable housing in Bowling Green.

Since the destruction of their home in December, Jennifer Gammon and her 22-year-old daughter, Kayla, have experienced the negative effects of rising rent. Although the tornado gave Kayla the opportunity to begin a life of her own outside of the now destroyed home she grew up in, the financial burden of high rent is ever present.
According to a 2019 Bowen National Research titled "Bowling Green, Kentucky Housing Needs Assessment" many residents, like Kayla and Jenifer, are cost or rent burdened. The study defines cost and rent burdened as any household that is paying over 30% of their income to housing costs, and severe rent burden is a household who is paying over 50% of income to housing costs. Given that the average population per household is 2.8, and the population in Bowling Green is 67,600, according to the 2019 U.S. census, around 24,000 people in the city could be rent burdened.

In regards to renting, people who fall into the extremely low-income and very low-income rental housing which is considered to be from $442 to $736 per month, are most in need of housing, according to the Kentucky Housing Needs Assessment. However, on, the average single bed room apartment is listed at $790, which would make many of the current rentals out of the price range of those people who are in the most need of rental housing.

Facing homelessness for the first time in December of 2021, Jennifer and Kayla were not in the financial position to pay rent higher than the former $790.00 they had been paying for the two-bedroom household. The women searched for housing similar to previous home and even had hopes of moving back into their house of 10 years once the landlord had rebuilt.
"My landlord told me that even if he does rebuild our house on Magnolia, I won't be able to afford to live there."

~ Jennifer Gammon

Various hotel rooms became their only option. For three-weeks Jennifer lived in a motel room until she was able to find her current apartment with help from a friend. The rent is $100.00 higher than she has ever paid, forcing her already tight budget into an almost impossible spot. With little help from their insurance and organizations like Red Cross and after several denials from FEMA, Jennifer now saves money for rent by frequenting food donation centers for weekly groceries.

Kayla, unlike her mother, did not have a consistent source of income at the time of the tornado. She, her son, and boyfriend were forced to live in a single hotel room from December until the beginning of March 2022. High rent, increased demand, and a former felon oh her record created a seemingly impassible barrier. "I really wanted to buy my own home one day. You know, have a place that can't nobody kick you out of," said Kayla. She still dreams and is working towards settling into a home, with a large backyard for her son and future children to play in. With a full time job and moving into her first apartment in April of 2022, Kayla is well on her way to building the life she had dreamed about for but now, she is focused on making she her monthly rent is paid and her family had food in the pantry.