September 23-24

Hurricane Harvey

Voluntary Home Buyout

Voluntary home buyout is used by the Flood Control District to reduce flood damages in areas hopelessly deep in the floodplain where structural projects (i.e. channel modifications or detention basins) to reduce flooding are not cost effective and/or beneficial. These are homes that were simply built in the wrong place, prior to the knowledge we have today of the boundaries of our floodplains and prior to building regulations imposed by the city and county on land development. The Flood Control District’s Voluntary Home Buyout Program does not provide immediate flood recovery assistance – its primary function is to help prevent future flood damages.

FUNDING FOR VOLUNTARY HOME BUYOUTS

The graphic below is intended to assist you in understanding the funding process for home buyout programs in the United States, including the home buyout program led by the Flood Control District. The level of activity in the District’s voluntary buyout program is influenced heavily by the availability of federal funds to leverage the District's funds that support it.


> PDF of Voluntary Home Buyout Process

By pursuing FEMA grants, the Flood Control District leverages each dollar it spends into as much as two to four dollars to acquire and demolish homes that are at high risk of flooding in the future. Federal funding for home buyout has historically required local matching funds of at least 25%, although some grant programs are now paying up to 100% of eligible costs. In addition to matching funds, the District also funds certain expenses (such as some relocation costs) that are not covered by the FEMA grants.

It is important to note that, although some grant funds are made available after a disaster declaration, these buyout grants do not provide immediate flood recovery assistance. These programs typically take eight to twelve months after the flood event to even get started, and then may take place over a period of many years following a flood event. Buyouts are intended to prevent future flood damages.

BENEFITS OF VOLUNTARY BUYOUT

  • Relocates families to higher ground out of harm’s way.
  • Eliminates future flood damages and health and safety risks for owners and rescuers.
  • Reduces repetitive subsidized flood insurance payments and federal disaster assistance.
  • Restores floodplain to its natural and beneficial function for stormwater storage.
  • Creates open space with the potential for community amenities (i.e. parks, gardens, playing fields, etc.). 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Since the District’s voluntary buyout program began in 1985, over 2,075 structures have been purchased with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants and over 960 properties (with and without structures; 65% with) with District funds. Additionally, over 30 structures have been purchased with Corps of Engineers funds.  As a result, over 1,060 acres have been restored to their natural and beneficial function as a floodplain and millions of dollars in flood damages avoided. These properties will never flood again – the only properties for which we can make such a guarantee. Unfortunately, there still remain over 107,000 residential parcels identified within the regulated floodplains.  While buyout is not appropriate for all of these parcels those meeting eligibility requirements are considered.


Locations of nearly 3,000 Voluntary Home Buyouts in Harris County.

HOME BUYOUT ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

DISTRICT ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

For a property to meet the District’s eligibility requirements, it must be beneficial to the District’s mission.  To that end, the District will consider the following factors in its evaluation of the property:

  1. Source of flooding. The District’s jurisdiction includes Harris County bayous, creeks and smaller waterways that feed into the bayou system (riverine flooding).  Flooding from roadside ditches, ponding, and overland sheet flow typically fall outside of the District’s jurisdiction. 
  2. Location and depth within the floodplainThe property must be located deep within a mapped floodplain and subject to repetitive flooding.  As such, structures located closest to bayous and creeks are typically ideal. 
  3. Cost effectiveness as a solution to the property’s flooding problem. In shallow floodplains other types of flood reduction projects, such as detention basins or channel modifications may be more beneficial.  Buyouts are ideal for structures hopelessly deep in the floodplain.
  4. Potential for future floodplain preservation and/or flood damage reduction projects. The property must be strategically located for potential or future flood damage reduction projects and/or floodplain preservation.
  5. Compatibility with community and natural values. Community support for buyout is important.  Alternatives may need to be considered if the community is opposed.

FEDERAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS 

To qualify for grants through FEMA, the following eligibility requirements apply:

  1. The property must be located in a community that participates and is in good standing in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and has a FEMA-approved Hazard Mitigation Action Plan.
  2. The property’s purchase must be cost beneficial.  A property is considered cost beneficial if the cost of acquiring and demolishing the property is less than the cost of the estimated future flood damages to the property.
  3. The property must have a current flood insurance policy to meet the requirements for certain types of FEMA grants, such as the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program.

It is important to note that, although some grant funds are made available after a disaster declaration, these buyout grants do not provide immediate flood recovery assistance. These programs typically take eight to twelve months after the flood event to even get started, and then may take place over a period of many years following a flood event. Buyouts are intended to prevent future flood damages.

HOME RECENTLY FLOODED?

If your home was recently flooded, please:

  1. Submit a flood insurance claim (1-800-427-4661).  A homeowner’s insurance claim may also be necessary for damages not related to flood water.
  2. Register for disaster assistance (when available) with FEMA (1-800-621-3362) for any uncovered or underinsured items. Additionally, contact the American Red Cross (713-526-8300) for other disaster related assistance.
  3. Contact your local permit office to determine if permits are needed to rebuild.
  1. Refer to the District’s Family Flood Preparedness Plandocument for useful tips on what to do before, during, and after a flood.

Volunteer for the Voluntary Buyout Program

Harris County Flood Control District’s Voluntary Home Buyout Program does not provide immediate flood recovery assistance – its primary function is to help prevent future flood damages.

For the most immediate assistance regarding the Flood Control District’s Home Buyout Program, please complete and submit a  Notice of Voluntary Interest form.

Notice of Voluntary Interest Form

Our Property Acquisition Department is working diligently to consider each Notice of Voluntary Interest submitted, and submittal of your interest through the online form is the most proactive step you can take as a homeowner at this time. Submitting this form does not obligate you to sell or the District to purchase your home.

Homeowner Release Forms

If and when your home is approved in a grant application for voluntary home buyout, the following 3 release forms are required in order to continue with the buyout process:

Privacy Act Statement– authorizes a public notice that FEMA is considering a voluntary home buyout program in the community (no private contact information is published).

Property Appraisal Permission and Release – authorizes the District to conduct a property appraisal and to make an offer to purchase.

Declaration and Release – indicates if the property owner is a citizen of the United States.  The owner’s citizenship can affect eligibility for certain types of relocation assistance.

For More Information about Voluntary Buyouts

For questions about voluntary home buyout, including eligibility criteria, grant application status, the buyout process, and relocation assistance, call the Home Buyout Hotline at 713-684-4020 or 713-684-4035.