City government buy-out

Shirley Randle, 47, looks out of her kitchen window in the Greens Addition in 2018. The Randles planned to move after enduring repeated flooding.

Victoria County expects to buy and demolish about 30 of the most flood-prone homes in the county as part of its post-Harvey buyout program.

County commissioners will discuss their application for the buyout process at their meeting Monday. If the county’s plan is approved, it unlocks about $2.5 million that’s been allocated to the county specifically to run a buyout program. The county’s budget anticipates spending about $1.2 million to purchase the homes, with the rest of the funding going toward demolishing those homes, administering the program, conducting environmental reviews and helping residents who participate to relocate.

Buyout programs have become increasingly common for flood-prone neighborhoods after a natural disaster. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, cities and counties throughout Texas expect to spend millions of dollars buying the homes most at risk of flooding again in the future. All Harvey buyout programs in the state are voluntary, so homeowners and some landlords can apply to have the government buy their homes if they meet certain criteria.

The government, once it has acquired the property, will demolish it and leave it as permanent open space. The theory behind buyout programs is that removing families from flood plains is safer and more cost-effective than trying to stop the floodwaters from rising during future storms.

According to a draft of the county’s application for the program, the county expects to be able to buy and then demolish about 30 homes. There will be some funding set aside to help tenants and homeowners participating in the program find new places to live, according to the draft.

Any homeowner in the county’s flood plain or flood zone is eligible to apply for the buyout. Homeowners will be offered the fair market value of their home before Hurricane Harvey hit. Households with lower incomes and with special needs, including accessibility concerns, will be prioritized, according to the county’s draft application.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on whether to approve the application Monday.

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 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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