Metro making final decisions on home buyout program

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 5:35pm

As thousands of Nashvillians assess flood losses to their homes, Metro officials are finalizing details of an aggressive buyout program whereby damaged homes susceptible to future flooding would be purchased and torn down by the government.

Under the plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay 75 percent of the cost to purchase damaged homes within Nashville’s floodway, which refers to the designated area in immediate proximity to waterways that experiences regular flooding. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Metro would each pay 12.5 percent of costs.

Government officials would also consider purchasing excessively damaged homes that fall within the city’s much broader 100-year floodplain.

The financial sum given to a homeowner would equal the property value appraisal of the house assessed prior to Nashville’s flood two weeks ago. The home would then be torn down, with the property being handed over to Metro Parks and Recreation as future green space.

“Our goal is to make sure people are in homes that are safe and that they’re given the best opportunity to rebuild, whether that’s at their current location or somewhere else,” Mayor Karl Dean said Wednesday.

By law, all homeowners with flood-related damages to their houses are to apply for a building permit with Metro codes before making repairs. From there, Metro officials will consider certain criteria to determine if an individual’s house should be purchased.

All Nashvillians who have damaged houses that are outside the city’s 100-year floodplain will be issued a building permit. (Homeowners can see if their houses fall within a floodplain by visiting

But Metro Water Services Director Scott Potter said Metro officials must determine the percent of damages to all homes within the city’s 100-year floodplain that are in need of repair. If damages exceed 50 percent of the house’s value, Metro would then determine the elevation of he lowest floor in comparison to the surrounding 100-year floodplain.

“If the lowest floor elevation is below the 100-year plain then we need to meet with you individually to discuss your options,” Potter said.

While the buyout program itself is not new, the program in Nashville has never been implemented on such a large scale. To date, Metro Water Services has purchased 54 homes within flood-prone areas, houses that would have presumably been destroyed during recent flooding.

More than 530 structures damaged during Nashville’s recent flood are within Nashville’s floodway, according to Metro officials. Another 2,500 damaged structures are outside that floodway.

“The greatest subset (to not receive building permits) are going to be people in the floodway with greater than 50 percent damage,” Potter said. “At that point we’re going to meet with them and start talking about the buyout program.”

Potter said the reason so many homes fall within the city’s 100-year floodplain is because they were built prior to the adoption of regulations that would have prevented their construction.

“The problem that we’re facing fundamentally is that we didn’t have stormwater management in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” Potter said. “Most of the homes that were damaged were built before the rules were in place.”

Metro’s flood way and floodplain maps were last updated in 2001. As part of the recovery process, Dean said Metro and FEMA officials plan to revise them again in the immediate future.

4 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 5/20/10 at 7:11

This plan would be 100% taxpayer financed . Not a good use of their money.

By: rodney1 on 5/20/10 at 8:22

What's the alternative? One way or another everyone pays for houses in a flood zone, and it won't or can't be only the folks who were wiped out, by definition.

It's just a question of whether we do it now, and how we do it. Pay for it with taxes, with higher insurance rates, with reductions in Nashville's credit rating and thus greater strain on debt obligations, with higher crime and thus reduced property values/comparables and/or general tourism because of expansion of neglected flood zone properties.

One thing I'm certain of. There will be another flood, and someone will have to pay for it. I'd argue its best that we pony up now than ask our kids to do it later. Fact is, green space creates wealth (ask Austin Tx), but the return mostly goes to future taxpayers, not current ones.

By: gdiafante on 5/20/10 at 8:24

Sounds like a good plan.

Id would whine regardless.

By: starmama on 5/20/10 at 5:24

I noticed in the article Mr. Potter talked about many homes being built prior to adoption of new regulations and stormwater management in the 50's, 60's and 70's.
My daughter's home in Pennington Bend, the River Bend subdivision was built in 1998. A variance was given to build in that area. I'm wondering why a variance would have ever been given to build in 1998 in that area.