It’s Your Money: Conway plans to buy more than 40 homes to prevent future flooding

A former flooded home is now an empty lot in Conway. The property was purchased and demolished...
A former flooded home is now an empty lot in Conway. The property was purchased and demolished as part of city's FEMA buyout program that started in 2016.
Updated: Mar. 19, 2019 at 5:26 PM EDT
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CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - After Hurricane Matthew caused widespread flooding, Conway city officials began looking for a feasible long-term solution to flooding.

The city hired a consultant in 2016 to create a buyout program to remove as many homes from harms way as possible.

The program allows homeowners who faced repeated flooding to sell their property to the city, which offers sellers 75 percent of the market value of their home before Hurricane Matthew hit. For example, a home worth $200,000 would receive an offer of $150,000.

After the city buys and demolishes the home, nothing is able to be built at that location again.

“The fair market value of a home that has been flooded repeatedly is next to nothing, so if people can’t get rid of their homes, can’t get out of their homes, can’t afford to repair their homes, they needed to have another option and this was the program,” said Conway City Administrator Adam Emrick.

Three years later, the cost of the city’s program is beginning to take effect.

Emrick said nearly 20 homes have been purchased and he expects 30 to 40 more will be bought.

The city said it has spent $1.3 million on these closings. However, Emrick explains these costs will eventually be reimbursed. So far, FEMA reimbursed around 43 percent of the cost, according to the city.

“It is probably the best program the city has from a city taxpayer standpoint in getting benefit for your dollar," Emrick stated.

Conway received $11.3 million from FEMA for its flood buyout program.

The city does have to pay consultant fees to Jeffrey Ward & Associates for assisting with the program.

Since 2016, the consultant received more than $277,000, but nearly $60,000 was able to be reimbursed.

Participants accepted into the program also have to pay 25 percent of the demolition cost.

“There have been a lot of things that have been thrown around to prevent flooding, talking about dredging and diversion canals and lifting infrastructure and all that needs to be done, but those projects are so much bigger than a municipality can bear on their own,” Emrick said. “This is the one thing that we could do that could help flood victims or help future flooding events that was within our control and within our abilities,”

Emrick said the city is still waiting to hear if an additional 28 houses can be added to the Hurricane Matthew funding. If the homes are able to be added, the process will be expedited by two years.

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