Vt. to help buy out 5 Irene-damaged homes

Wednesday March 13, 2013


Associated Press

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Four Vermont homeowners in Jamaica and one in Hartford will have their Irene-damaged properties, which were ineligible for a federal disaster program, bought out with the help of a different grant program, state officials said Tuesday.

The state will pay up to 75 percent of the value of those properties using money from a community development block grant to buy out those homes -- and any others found in the future to be ineligible for a disaster mitigation program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

For the four properties in Jamaica, the Stratton Foundation has committed $80,000 to help meet the additional costs. Other sources of funding could be available, as well, officials said.

The properties were damaged by Irene flooding. They are in areas believed to be susceptible to damage from future floods.

"At this point there are five that we know are ineligible for FEMA funding," said Housing Commissioner Jennifer Hollar. "The state has committed to providing CBDG disaster recovery funds to 75 percent of the cost of those and any other primary homes that are eventually determined to be ineligible for FEMA funding."

The money to help buy out the properties will come from $5.8 million set aside from a $21.6 million community development block grant. For homes that were eligible for FEMA funding, the grant will help make up a 25 percent local match.

The vast majority of properties that applied for the program were approved, and more are pending, but Hollar said she did not have a specific number.

FEMA has committed to spending $13 million for the hazard mitigation program, but the number of homes represented by that money is unclear, said FEMA spokesman Dave Mace.

Thousands of homes were damaged by Irene on Aug. 28, 2011, and two spring floods that year. Some were deemed to be in areas prone to future flooding. The hazard mitigation program has the towns buy the properties from the homeowners for a portion of their pre-flood value. If the structures are still standing, they are then torn down to make sure they aren’t damaged by future floods.

The application process can be difficult, and some properties were found to be ineligible. The state is now committed to helping those homeowners recover at least a portion of the value of their property.

"The state and the governor know that these homeowners have been through a lot. There have been a lot of ups and downs and disappointments along the way," Hollar said. "We’re committed to helping them on a case-by-case basis move these buyouts forward and let them get on with their lives."


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