JOPLIN, Mo. — “You’re just sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, 30 percent of your town’s destroyed. What are you going to do and how are you going to recover?’ That next morning we had a contractor in here rebuilding a hair salon. Just that little, just that one permit, you know, helped with the attitude that maybe, maybe we can get through this,” said Troy Bolander, City of Joplin.

According to U.S. Census estimates, Joplin’s population dropped overnight from over 50,000 to around 48,000. Troy Bolander, the Director of Planning, Development, and Neighborhood Services for the City of Joplin, says the road to rebuilding was at first a frightening thought. But like always, the community came through.

“I think when we started feeling more confident is when we started seeing the rebuilding. It was a whole effort. You see some major employers keep the employees on the payroll. Nonprofits such as Economic Security Corporation, Joplin Habitat for Humanity, the Joplin Housing Authority all contributed to make sure we could find housing for these displaced citizens,” said Bolander.

Most of the displaced citizens found new housing within a 30 mile radius of Joplin.

“We say some neighborhoods that were high rentals, such as 70%, it was challenging for them to get housing stock back up. What we tried to do was create a housing program to incentivize buyers to buy a home in the disaster recovery area. Which also encourage buildings to build on those lots as well,” said Bolander.

In August of 2013, with funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development through Community Development Block grants, the city created the Joplin Homeowners Assistance Program, or J-HAP. Realtor Jennifer Reaves, with Keller Williams, says this was a huge difference maker.

“J-HAP allowed borrowers to move into the city limits of Joplin with grant money. Which allowed them to move quickly and hold on to that cash they had and make some decisions with what they did with that,” said Jennifer Reaves, Realtor Keller Williams.

By 2015, Joplin’s population had not only recovered to its previous number, but had surpassed it and was sitting at more that 51,000. By early 2016, J-HAP had provided more than $15 million in assistance to home buyers.

“We started to see the trend move back into Joplin once we had some inventory about a year and a half to two years after the tornado. And then we’ve had a strong market really ever since,” said Reaves.