First State Buy-Outs For Homes Lost In Irene Come Through

Dec 4, 2013

After Tropical Storm Irene, some property owners who lost everything were not approved for a federal buy-out. But last March the state said it would come up with the funding. The first state-funded buy-outs have gone through in Jamaica.

When floodwaters tore four houses off of Water Street in Jamaica, the homeowners lost everything. Soon after they were faced with another heartache. FEMA determined they weren’t eligible to be bought out with federal funds because their properties weren’t in what’s called a Special Flood Hazard Area on National Flood Insurance Rate maps.

But late last month the town of Jamaica bought two of the four properties using funds from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

Karin Hardy, whose property was one of the first to be bought out, is grateful.

“Such a huge feeling of thanks to those who are responsible who worked hard to make this happen on our behalf,” Hardy said.

Kevin Geiger of Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission helped arrange the buy-outs. He said now, those homes won’t be rebuilt.

“The river has a lot more room down there to move.,” observed Geiger. “And If it floods those properties again there won’t be anybody in harm’s way.”

A third buy-out in Jamaica is scheduled before the end of the year. A fourth is still being processed. The state has about $2 million for a total of 13 buy-outs state wide. Half of the money comes from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. The rest are federal dollars through the Community Development Block Grant. Kevin Geiger said that same kind of funding may not be there in the next big flood.

“I’m not so sure that in all future events we are going to have this opportunity,” said Geiger.  “And so I think that in this particular event we’re fortunate to have funds to be able to get people most of the way out of the holes that they were in.”

The state paid a substantial percentage of the pre-Irene assessed values of the homes in Jamaica. The amount varies from case to case. And the Stratton Foundation will provide homeowners there with another 25 percent.

Karin Hardy says the closing on her property means she can look ahead now that she no longer has to fight to see it through.

“When it finally does happen you can allow yourself to let your defenses down,” said Hardy. “And maybe for the first time really, really feel the loss and be able to finally look forward to putting everything behind me, putting the files away and just looking to the future.”

Besides the four homes in Jamaica the state is funding nine other buy-outs in West Hartford, Braintree, Killington, Pittsfield, Sharon, Rochester and Newfane.