The area surrounding the Guadalupe River is susceptible to flooding. Both Victoria County and the city of Victoria are preparing to buy out dozens of homes that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey and are located in the flood plain.

Victoria County residents interested in selling their flood-prone and Harvey-damaged homes to the county can learn more about the program as early as this fall.

County commissioners discussed the upcoming buyout program at their weekly meeting Monday and voted to approve an application to the Texas General Land Office. Once the state agency approves the application, it will unlock about $2.5 million that’s been allocated to Victoria County for buying homes that repeatedly flood.

Tyler Smith, a buyout and acquisition grant manager with GrantWorks, explained the details of the buyout program at Monday’s meeting. Buyouts are complex processes that usually take years to complete after a disaster strikes. Despite the intricacy of buyout and acquisition programs, they are popular options for flood-prone regions because they help remove families at risk of future flooding and relocate them to higher ground.

“Buyouts are incredibly effective at mitigating risk,” Kyle Shelton, a flood mitigation expert with Rice University, said in an interview last year. “You are removing the risk. It’s one of the only interventions where you’re basically guaranteeing that no property is going to be flooded at a single lot, ‘cause you’ve removed the property.”

Like most buyout programs, Victoria County’s program will offer to buy homes that are repeatedly flooded. Residents can use that money to move elsewhere in Victoria County, and the county demolishes the home to leave permanent open space. That open space, in turn, provides better drainage for the region as a whole when flooding does occur.

“Buyouts will help us strategically remove properties that are the most vulnerable to flooding,” Smith said.

Victoria County’s allocation will allow the county to purchase and demolish about 30 homes, Smith said. Using historical data, Smith and his team have estimated that the average value for rural homes in the flood plain was about $40,000 before the storm. Smith said he also estimated it would cost about $15,000 to demolish a single property. In all, the project will budget about $1.2 million for buying the homes, with the remainder of the money going toward demolition and helping residents relocate, among other expenses.

Any county resident who lives in a flood plain or floodway and whose home sustained damage from Hurricane Harvey is eligible to apply for the buyout. The majority of the allocation must go to households making less than the area median income for the county. Smith said GrantWorks expects to begin meeting with interested residents in the fall and that anyone is welcome to meet with his team to see whether their household is eligible to apply.

Smith said the program would target homeowners outside city limits to make sure residents are aware of the program and can apply if they’re interested. Some renters will be eligible to apply as well, he said.

The city of Victoria will run its own buyout program, and the Victoria City Council is scheduled to discuss that application at its meeting Tuesday. The funding comes from the federal government, and the state plans to use at least $275 million for home buyout programs in Harvey affected areas throughout the state.

Also Monday, commissioners agreed to a renewal of the county’s agreement through the Texas Association of Counties Risk Management Pool, which protects the county’s property against various risks. For 2019, the county’s contribution for property coverage is increasing to $278,109 from $204,179 for last year’s agreement.

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers public health for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. She reports on insurance, the cost of health care, local hospitals, and more. Questions, tips, or ideas? Contact: cmccarthy@vicad.com or call 361-580-6597.

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