Federal program will soon start buying homes in flood-prone areas

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CLAY COUNTY – Clay County residents whose applications have been accepted will soon be selling their homes back to the county.

The National Department of Economic Opportunity is helping the county to do it. There is a voluntary home buyout program in place that will purchase multiple homes located in a repetitive flood location along Black Creek. Five million dollars has been allotted.

“This program is meant to try to purchase those homes and turn them into green spaces to get those people out of the repetitive flood loss areas,” said John Ward, Clay County Director of Emergency Management. “This money is from the department of economic opportunity, there’s certain criteria that comes with it. There has to be severe repetitive loss, which means they’ve flooded a certain amount of times within a certain timeline.”

The residents can then apply to sell their homes at fair market value. If approved, their homes will be purchased, and then contractors will demolish them and return the plot to of land to a natural green space.

“An open property type thing,” said Ward. “You can’t build anything on it. It becomes an open field or an open piece of property on the water. Generally, in these programs, it’s meant to get the building or facility off of said property so it will not flood or whatever’s on it won’t flood again, so generally, you’re not allowed to rebuild back on that property.”

According to Ward, some of the homes in the Black Creek area have flooded 13 or 14 times. In some extreme examples, FEMA may have put as much as $1.1 million, into a home with a value of $150,000 by doing constant repairs. The home buyout initiative would save a great deal of money.

Ward estimates that depending on the values of the properties; there may be between 15 and 25 properties total purchased in the program.

“A lot of it’s going to depend on values [of the properties],” said Ward.

The Clay resident who is able to take part in this program has the benefits of getting fair value for their home in addition to having the opportunity to move from a location which faces consistent danger and disaster. On the state and federal levels, they will be able to stop putting money into the same properties over and over.

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