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Louisville Flood Work Group Considers Buyout For Homeowners

MSD home buyout
A stop work order from MSD.

A work group tasked with coming up with solutions for Louisville homeowners affected by spring flooding is considering a "quick-buy" program that would provide money to qualifying residents to help them raze their homes and relocate.

But Greg Heitzman, executive director of Metropolitan Sewer District (the groups tasked with enforcing that rule) and chair of the work group, on Wednesday said there is not enough money to "deal with all the homes" affected by the flooding.

He said MSD will need at least $1 million to kick-start the quick-buy program. The program, he said, is still in need of more consideration and is in a preliminary state, but it could potentially provide a flat rate of $50,000 to all qualifying homeowners affected by the flood.

A $50,000 buyout, for example, would still leave nearly $50,000 in unaccounted costs for demolishing a home valued at $100,000, Heitzman said. And that is accounting for FEMA grants and small business loans available for moving or demolishing a home, he added.

“The higher price of home, the more subsidy or grant would be needed” to buy out the home, he said.

Many homeowners who attended Wednesday's meeting said $50,000 isn't enough for them to get out of their damaged home and find a new home in the county.

Heitzman said local, state and federal funds are available—as well as insurance money and funds from MSD—that could be put toward helping residents out of a situation that many say has them stuck.

Heitzman also said the work group in a future meeting will consider a variable buyout program that will provide payments based on a home's value.

Metro Councilwoman Angela Leet, a Republican from District 7, said the homeowners are going to have to make a "tough decision" about whether to try to rebuild or take a buyout.

At Thursday's Metro Council meeting, members are expected to vote on a proposed amendment to the 2006 ordinance that would change the rule prohibiting repairs to some flood damaged homes from 50-percent damage over 10 years to 50-percent "per incident."

On Wednesday, the work group agreed to endorse the proposed amendment to the ordinance.

If the council approves the amendment, some homeowners will be eligible to rebuild their homes.

Leet said homeowners would have to decide if they will rebuild or rather try to qualify for the buyout payment. The specific criteria for what would potentially qualify a homeowner for a buyout program has yet to be set.

Howard Wuest, 52, said amending the ordinance is a "scapegoat" for MSD.

But Leet said she doesn't feel amending the ordinance is a "scapegoat," but rather a "tool in the toolbox."

"It gives homeowners an option," she said.

If the amendment to the current ordinance is approved at Thursday's meeting, it would be null in six months, Heitzman said. By then, the work group must come up with a long-term solution to deal with flood plain management.

The work group was developed earlier this month by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council president David Tandy.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.