Local Buyout Program Saves Homes From Flooding

Jul 15, 2013

Charlotte Firefighters & Police Officers responding to a service call in southeast Charlotte in August of 2011.
Credit flickr/charlottefire

It's been raining a lot in the Charlotte area. Since June 1, we've received about 12 inches of rain. That's about 7 inches above normal. About six homes were flooded last week in northwest Charlotte. But city officials say it would have been much higher if it weren't for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg floodplain buyout program. In the past 12 years, they've relocated 500 families.

This summer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Storm Water Services will spend five million dollars demolishing residential properties in areas prone to flooding.

The office maps out properties at risk of flooding and it then ranks those properties based on the risk of loss of life and property.

Tim Trautman is program manager of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Floodplain Buyout Program.

"The vast majority of our problems with homes being flooded are construction that was prior to the mid-70s," Trautman says. 

The agency reaches out to homeowners to ask if they'll sell their house so that they can demolish it. Homeowners then have the option of taking that money and using it to move somewhere else.

The homes are converted to vacant lots, community gardens, open spaces or greenways.

It's a voluntary program, Trautman says, but more than 90 percent of people agree to sell their homes. He says it was especially beneficial during Thursday's downpour.

"We had only a handful of residents in homes that flooded into their living space," he says. "And there were at least 20 homes that would have flooded had we not initiated this buyout program many years ago."

About 70 percent of its funding used to come from federal sources, particularly FEMA. But with federal budget cuts, Trautman says the program will now have to rely on local funding, which it's using for its latest round of demolitions this summer. Local funding comes from the storm water maintenance fee.

Oh and there's some good news: the rain is expected to clear up Monday.