Photo: Mark Mulligan, Staff Photographer / Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle
Harris County will receive $26.5 from the federal government to begin home buyouts in floodplains, the Harris County Flood Control District announced Monday.
With an additional $8.6 million in local matching funds, the flood control district estimates it will be able to purchase 169 flood-prone homes. In response to Hurricane Harvey, the flood control district has asked for a total of $163.4 million from the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to buy around 1,000 homes, and expects to receive additional grants for that purpose later this year.
"This is just the first allotment of FEMA funding for home buyouts, and we are looking forward to the ability to do more work for our residents," County Judge Ed Emmett said in a statement.
The 169 buyout targets are spread across Harris County, and include plots along White Oak, Greens, Brays and Halls bayous, as well as the San Jacinto River. Those homes were chosen, the flood control district said, because they were so significantly damaged by previous floods that repairing the structures would cost more than 50 percent of their market value.
The funds will allow the flood control district to compete with private developers, who as of last month had already snatched up 88 properties Harris County had wanted to purchase. Many, to the flood control district's chagrin, are being flipped or converted to rentals, keeping residents in the floodplain.
Homeowners still may volunteer for a buyout. To be eligible, a home must be located in a Harris County community that supports buyouts and next to a waterway that feeds into the bayou system, located in a mapped floodplain and/or subject to repetitive flooding. A buyout also must be the most cost-effective solution to a home's flooding problem.