FEMA Proposes Rebuilds After Buyouts

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is proposing to allow owners of homes destroyed by storms and bought out by the government to rebuild on the same flood-prone land. FEMA presently offers to buy repeatedly flooded homes to tear them down and turn the land into open space a policy aimed at limiting future disaster costs...
May 1, 2018

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is proposing to allow owners of homes destroyed by storms and bought out by the government to rebuild on the same flood-prone land. FEMA presently offers to buy repeatedly flooded homes to tear them down and turn the land into open space a policy aimed at limiting future disaster costs. However, a federal regulation proposed in February would let homeowners sell their homes to the government but retain ownership of the property underneath it. After FEMA tears down the home, the owners would be allowed to rebuild the house, so long as the new structure “meets community flood management building codes.”

According to FEMA spokesperson Jenny Burke, “Following Hurricane Harvey, there were discussions regarding direct to homeowner acquisitions. FEMA decided to collect comments and input through the Federal Register notice process. We will review and evaluate all comments received during the comment period and determine the best path forward.”

In comments submitted to FEMA this month, the floodplain managers’ association warned that the change could violate federal law, which according to the association requires the government buyouts to purchase both the structure and the land it sits on. “Why would you want to change the rules?” Larry Larson, senior policy adviser for the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said in an interview. “That doesn’t make sense.”


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