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WJCT Public Media: Buyouts Available for Flagler County Homes Damaged During Irma or in at Risk Area

Flagler County residents with homes that were damaged during Hurricane Irma or are located in high risk areas have until the end of July to sell their property to the government at its assessed pre-storm value.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Voluntary Home Buyout Program is designed to reduce flood risk by allowing local governments to buy residential properties in high flood-risk areas and permanently deed restrict those properties to be maintained for open space, recreational or wetlands management purposes only. 

Funding for the program is managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) as part of its Rebuild Florida program.

According to the DEO, in order to be eligible for the program homes must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • The property is located within the designated areas (Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or High-Risk Flood Area) or

  • The property is located outside of the designated areas and satisfies one of the following requirements:

  • The property is substantially damaged (51% or more of the pre-event fair market value of the structure is damaged); or

  • The property is considered a health/safety risk; or

  • The property is located within a floodway. 

Flagler County, which was hit hard during Hurricane Irma, is considered one of the areas of greatest concern, said the County’s Emergency Management Director, Jonathan Lord.

Applicants have until July 29, 2019, to self identify, then sign and submit a voluntary participation form. The completed application must be submitted by July 31, 2019. Priority will be given to those who qualify under HUD’s medium and low income criteria.

The program officially opened up to the public last week. As of Tuesday afternoon the county has had only one person self identify. Lord said he has no idea how much interest there will be.

“Homeowners often have to incur some costs to get that appraisal done, have to be willing to sell their property for that pre-storm appraisal amount. In today's market, that may or may not be a good deal. They may be able to get more money for their property on a regular market. So it very much is an individual decision for that homeowner,” he said. “But if people think they might be interested in it, and they know they've had maybe repetitive damage from storms back to back, or Irma was kind of that last straw, this might be a good opportunity for them.”

He said climate change and sea level rise aren’t directly impacting the funds being made available for this program, but flooding is becoming a greater concern all along the coast. 

Studies show that as sea levels continue to rise, home values in areas at risk of flooding will fall (in some cases, they have already dropped), so this could be an opportunity for owners to sell their home at a price that may not be possible otherwise.

“But… we as Americans love waterfront property,” said Lord. “And sometimes that logic goes against the grain and people still want the property because they want to be on the water.”

To request a voluntary participation form email EOC@FlaglerCounty.orgor call 386-313-4243.

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