'It's going to happen again': Victoria gets $2.4M to buy homes at risk of flooding

Jake Hamilton, 16, picks up the last of the soaked carpet from his home in Greens Addition that was flooded in 2017.

Victoria residents living in flood plains in the city will get the chance to sell their homes to the city thanks to Hurricane Harvey recovery funds.

It’s an opportunity city officials hope residents will take because it is all but certain that buildings located in the flood plain will flood again.

“The overarching purpose of the program is to remove residents from harm’s way and to reduce the potential for repetitive loss from future floods because again, we said, ‘It’s going to happen again,’” John Kaminski, Victoria’s assistant city manager, told the City Council on Tuesday night.

Victoria was allocated $2.4 million to spend on its home buyout and acquisition program. Buyout programs are a typical feature of disaster recovery plans and call for homes in flood-prone areas to be purchased by the government, demolished and turned into open space. But the programs are complicated for cities and counties to manage and usually take years to complete. Also, residents must opt into the program and decide to leave their homes and move elsewhere.

Residents interested in selling their homes will be offered the appraised fair-market value from before the storm, Kaminski said. The program will also offer residents incentives to help cover the cost of replacing their homes, he added.

Victoria’s funding to buy homes comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and is being administered by the Texas General Land Office. The city was allocated $2.4 million for home buyouts and more than $6 million to pay for infrastructure projects.

“The good news is these funds have been set aside for the city of Victoria. We don’t have to compete for these grant funds,” Kaminski said. “The program, however, does come with its own set of challenges. The GLO is not going to send us a check for $8.5 million and say, ‘Get to work.’”

The city is at the very beginning of starting the home buyout process, Kaminski told the Council, and still needs to develop an outreach plan for how it will inform eligible residents of the option to sell their home.

Depending on its scale, a buyout program can take up to a year to get off the ground and years more to complete.

“There are homes that are going to flood again,” Mayor Paul Polasek said Tuesday. “No question.”

“Absolutely,” Kaminski said in response. “There will be another ’98 flood. There will be a flood worse than the ’98 flood.”

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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Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can contact her by emailing cmccarthy@vicad.com.

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