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Texas county looks to buy homes with high flood risk

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2017, file photo, water from Addicks Reservoir flows into neighborhoods from floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. Harris County commissioners have voted to ask the federal government for a $17 million grant to purchase 104 homes at the highest risk of flooding. The decision came even as more than 1,000 residents have called the Flood Control District in recent days to request buyouts of their Hurricane Harvey flood-damaged homes. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
September 13, 2017 - 2:38 PM

HOUSTON - County officials in the Houston area are asking the federal government for $17 million to purchase more than 100 homes at the highest risk of flooding, though over a thousand residents have requested buyouts since Hurricane Harvey pummeled the area.

The Harris County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to apply for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, the Houston Chronicle reported . The funds would be used to buy and demolish 104 homes that are at least 2 feet (0.61 metres) below the flood plain.

The grant application was based on flooding in the previous two years, so it may not apply to the estimated 136,000 buildings in the county that were flooded during Harvey. The homes being eyed for buyouts are scattered across the county and aren't clustered in one area, said Russ Poppe, executive director for the county flood control district.

But in recent days, more than 1,000 residents have expressed interest in buyouts.

"It's absolutely, by far, the most significant and the most volume I've ever seen," said James Wade, property acquisition manager for the flood control district. "And, of course, this is also the largest flood event to ever hit Harris County. I guess it goes hand in hand."

Local and FEMA officials say they hope to expand and speed up the buyout process.

Through the system, homeowners report their interest in the voluntary buyout program to the district, which assembles the interested homes into grant applications sent to the federal government. Residents' properties are appraised, and they receive a value from the district.

The county has bought out more than 3,000 homes since the 1980s.

Wade said the county could see funds as early as 2018, though it may not receive the full amount requested.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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