FEMA encourages some homeowners to consider buyouts over rebuilding

by Rincey Abraham

As Houston homeowners assess their damage after Hurricane Harvey, many may want to consider buyouts over repairing or rebuilding after the major flooding.

Roy Wright, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official, runs the National Flood Insurance Program and is working on a plan for buyout possibilities. Although FEMA already has a buyout program that works with the Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD), many homeowners often rebuild instead of taking buyouts because it takes so long for funds to come through.  

“On these multiple-loss properties, I’m working with my team and lawyers on ways I can move (the buyout option) to the front,” Wright said to the Houston Chronicle. “The point is, I’m not going to pay someone redo their house, then re-buy it.”

Buyout programs are used by state and local governments to acquire properties in neighborhoods that are prone to natural disasters for homeowners who might not be able to sell the property otherwise. Homeowners apply for the program and, if granted, buyouts pay the market value of their homes.

The Houston Chronicle reports that HCFCD spent $11 million on 60 homes after the Tax Day Floods in April 2016.

In addition to the FEMA buyouts, HCFCD requests authorization to apply for a grant through the Texas Water Development Board to buy out homes at the highest risk of flooding.

However, Russell Poppee, executive director of HCFCD, said that this is an annual grant that it applies for and is in response to flooding that occurred in 2015 and 2016. This would buy out 104 homes that are “hopelessly deep” in the flood plain, which accounts for 3 percent of homes in those areas.  



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