City seeks grant for home buyout from spring 2008

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More than $400,000 is being sought so Vicksburg can help relocate the few residents who remain interested in participating in a buyout program nearly two years after a spring flood damaged their homes. 

Seventeen homeowners, primarily in Ford subdivision, began the buyout process through the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program following overland flooding in the spring of 2008. The program uses public funds to buy structures in flood areas to end repetitive damage claims under the taxpayer-subsidized National Flood Insurance Program. The land purchased falls into city hands and may not to be used for construction. It can be developed only for public use, such as a park.

Beatrice Moore, who has overseen the buyout program in the city’s planning department, said a total of four property owners have completed the buyout process. Four others have declined the final buyout offer for their properties. The remaining 10 are still interested in a buyout, but are not financially able to relocate with the money offered for their properties.

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“MEMA does not have a relocation component in the buyout program,” Moore told the city officials Monday. “So, what we’re hoping to be able to do now is to provide relocation assistance to the point where they don’t have to have some enormous house note, or be burdened down with debt as a result of having to give up their properties.”

The application approved by the mayor and aldermen Monday would provide $408,083 in funding through a federal Community Development Block Grant. The grant would require a 5 percent local match, which would equal about $20,000. MEMA and other in-kind city matches would total another $100,000, said Moore. The application should either be accepted or denied in the next 30 days, said Moore, and the money for relocation would be available soon after.

Moore said the majority of the appraisals for homes in the Ford subdivision came in at less than $10,000. Most have been passed down in families for generations, and the sentimental value often exceeds what the properties are worth according to fair market value. After the floodwaters receded, area residents were informed that houses damaged beyond 50 percent of their total worth could not be reconnected to utilities or receive building permits. That left owners three options according to federal law: accept a buyout, elevate their homes or face having them torn down.

In March of 2009 — nearly a year after the flood — city officials came up with a solution to allow flood victims to return to damaged homes. Essentially, homeowners were given an opportunity to sign away all rights to future disaster assistance.

The river topped flood stage of 43 feet at Vicksburg on March 29, 2008, crested at 50.9 feet April 19 and did not recede below flood stage until May 10. Officials estimated 145 people were displaced from 101 homes in the city, most of them located in repetitive flood plains north and south of the city such as Ford, Kings and Waltersville.

Contact Steve Sanoski at