County approves $20 million home buyout program

HOUSTON - Harris County Commissioners approved a $20 million plan for the county engineer to buy out homes affected by Hurricane Harvey.

About 205 homes are not eligible for permits to rebuild, making them eligible to be bought out by the county.

"The urgency is you have people that want to rebuild and they can't get a permit to rebuild and we have the ability this is just 206 of many homes but this is the beginning of an effort to try to bring their life back to normal as possible," said County Commissioner Precinct 3 Steve Radack. "That's gonna be a challenge, but it's an effort to get them to recognize it doesn't make sense to rebuild there."

The homes are also eligible for FEMA funding, which could offset the amount Harris County will pay.

"I think most of these people are quite willing to participate but it's a tragic situation," Radack said.

An additional 3,360 homes have been identified by the FEMA Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Program that may qualify for a buyout.

"FEMA can take several months to 2 years, and the Corps can take several years on buyouts so we're hoping all of that will be accelerated but it's possible based on vote today we'd like to have the first completed by October," Radack said.

An additional 680 homes were identified by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The funding not coming from the county could take 18 to 24 months.

"We need to move forward as quickly as possible because people are hanging and that's not a good situation," Radack said.

The county has yet to notify affected homeowners but said they should receive a letter in the mail starting this week.

Homeowners do have options, they can raise their house to a FEMA approved elevation or contest the county's damage assessment.

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