A study of federal records found American homeowners hoping to relocate out of flood zones don’t have equal access to federal funding meant to help them. The study reviewed over 40,000 records for flood-prone homes purchased by local governments with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since the late 1980s. Homeowners, however, can pursue flood buyouts only if their local government has completed the necessary steps to set up the program with FEMA. They cannot apply directly to FEMA on their own for the funds to which they are entitled.
Voluntary buyouts of flood-prone properties are heavily relied upon tool designed to move people out of harm’s way; however, the recent study found the buyout funds are disproportionately distributed to wealthier communities. This is partly because better-off local governments have the resources to apply for and administer the programs. But that keeps many of the people who most need buyouts from getting them, trapping people with fewer resources in at-risk communities. Complicating matters, FEMA’s grant programs do not address economic inequalities, and the agency doesn’t collect demographic data on its grants.
“If only communities with planners and 25 percent in matching funds are using FEMA’s flood buyback programs, such grants probably aren’t going to reach people who may need it most,” said researcher A.R. Siders, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware.
Florida is a good example of the disproportionate effects of buybacks. It is the top state in property loss at $98.8 billion in damage, but it is 24th in the country in terms of homes purchased. And, even if homeowners qualify for a buyout, once a property is included in a request for FEMA funding, they can be kept in limbo for years waiting to find out if their homes will be purchased.
Harris County Flood Buyouts
Harris County, Texas undergoes a major flood at least every two years and has used FEMA’s buyout programs more than any other county in the country. Its total of 2,190 properties is 1.5 times that of the second-biggest user. Even before Hurricane Harvey struck in August 2017, there were more than 1,000 people on a buyout waiting list due to previous flooding in the area. Two years after Harvey, only 420 properties have been acquired through HCFCD’s post-Harvey program out of 1,100 approved properties selected from 4,000 that volunteered for buyouts.
Hurricane Property Damage Lawyers
Whether you are taking action against another person or an insurance provider, Raizner Law will fight aggressively to get you a fair value for your affected property. We know how to manage insurance companies, claims adjusters, and other attorneys to get you the funds you need to rebuild and recover. And you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case. Contact us to get started on a free evaluation.