Moving a 1,200-square-foot home is a challenge. Doing it with government restrictions in place is near-impossible.
The Flood of 2010 inundated the Battlemont neighborhood home of Elizabeth and Brandt McMillan. It was the day of their one-year wedding anniversary. Determined to put the disaster behind them quickly, the couple trashed their waterlogged possessions within days and used insurance money to rehab their brick cottage, which was built in 1950. By October, the McMillans were living in a vastly improved home they loved, but that was still at risk for flooding.
Then flood buyout program details unfolded, and Brandt had an idea: use the proceeds from the sale of the house to the government (the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and Metro government) to retire the mortgage, buy an empty lot and move the home. As such, the government would have no demolition costs, and the plan seemed practical and environmentally friendly.
“At first, Metro said it sounded like a good idea,” Brandt McMillan recalled. “But the initial response [from TEMA and FEMA] was that it would be an impermissible duplication of benefits.”
The McMillans, weary after being displaced from the flood and dealing with their insurance carrier, bank and a flood mitigation expert, faced a conundrum: Stay in their newly remodeled home but take a chance of getting flooded again; or sell, move and then likely watch the government flatten a perfectly livable home.
They opted for choice No. 2.
“The government is not permitted to allow us to get a windfall,” Brandt McMillan said. “We would have basically gotten a free house out of the deal.”
McMillan said he understands the government’s position, adding that Metro Councilman Sean McGuire has done “a fantastic job” helping them through the process. “I’ve never been that impressed with a public servant,” he said.
Brandt, Elizabeth and dogs Molly and Oscar will move after the sale, likely in October. The couple’s first child is due in September.
“We would like to have kept the home,” Brandt said, “but we’re grateful to participate in the buyout program.”