Crowd learns about home buyout program for houses ruined by hurricane floodwaters

Flooding victims listen to options at FEMA meeting

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - If your home was damaged by flooding from Hurricane Florence, you might be eligible for a house and land buyout through a special FEMA program in coordination with local governments.

More than 150 people packed the Pender County Commissioners chambers on Tuesday night for an acquisition buyout workshop. If approved, the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program can include money for a home’s elevation, acquisition buyout, or mitigation construction.

“Our goal is to be able to help as many people as we can," Pender County Planning Director Kyle Breuer said. “The application process is fairly simple so if they take a few minutes and get that completed and back to us, we’re going to submit it and try to get eligibility for everybody that applies.”

To be eligible for the program in Pender County, officials say:

  • You must be the homeowner
  • It must be your primary residence
  • You must have been displaced by Hurricane Florence due to flooding
  • Your home must have flooded during Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence
  • The property structure must be deemed substantially damaged by a local floodplain administrator or FEMA, with damage greater than 50 percent of the total property value
  • Property is listed as a repetitive loss or severely repetitive loss

Preference will be given to homes on the 100-year special flood hazard area.

To apply for the program in Pender County, officials say you must send in these materials by Jan. 31:

  • Five-page application form
  • Exterior photos of all four sides of the house
  • If available, send in the elevation certificate and proof of flood insurance

If the homeowner’s buyout is approved, with notification approximately in May, they will be paid a pre-disaster fair market value for the home which is determined by a certified appraiser. Crews will then demolish the home, and the land is deeded to the local government with an open space restriction, according to a FEMA fact sheet.

Craig Harris, Pender County floodplain administrator, encouraged people to apply even if they are not sure they will ultimately select the buyout. You can opt out at any point before the final purchase.

“If we end up closing on a piece of property, the proceeds from that sale is up to the property owner to do what they so choose with," Breuer said. “Of course, we talked about, tonight, relocation and potential relocation assistance that can be added onto the acquisition program.”

When asked Tuesday who had applied to the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, about 25 people raised their hands in the room.

Experts discussed the FEMA buyout process and duplication of benefits, which means people should save receipts for any work done relating to FEMA money for repairs or an SBA loan.

Pender County homeowner Wes Taylor attended the workshop in hopes of learning about this option for his home ruined by flooding in the Canetuck community.

“Three houses, total loss. It’s enough of that. Enough," said Taylor. “We’re just looking at our options. This is voluntary. We don’t have to do it, but at this point, options.”

Taylor, whose home flooded with seven feet of water during Hurricane Florence, said most people in his neighborhood have not returned after the storm.

“Most everybody’s gone and that whole neighborhood, they just didn’t come back," said Taylor.

Pender County also utilized the FEMA program during Hurricane Matthew. About 800 homes were approved out of 3,000 applications during Matthew, according to data shared during the workshop.

“After a presidentially declared disaster, local officials may decide to request money from the state to purchase properties that have either flooded or been determined substantially damaged,” according to FEMA.

The purpose of the buyout is to lessen future flood losses. Local officials decide the eligibility requirements.

Many flooded properties don’t qualify for a buyout, FEMA officials write.

“Buyouts are voluntary and no one is required to sell their property," FEMA says. “It is a lengthy process and many factors are taken into consideration before a decision is rendered.”

The workshop was recorded and will be posted on the Emergency Management and Planning Department websites. A link will also be posted on Facebook, according to PenderCountyNC.gov.

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