State pitches in on home buyouts
Funds will let owners of ruined properties receive full value
CAPITAL REGION Jim Shaul’s devastated home on Redling Road in Fulton has remained vacant since the day the badly swollen Schoharie Creek burst from its banks and slammed into the structure with enough force to crack its foundation in half.
The home struck by the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene was beyond repair, with parts of its first floor collapsing into the basement. And given the creek’s tendencies, Shaul wasn’t eager to rebuild anywhere near the flood plain.
“It shot right straight through and hit us hard,” he recalled of the creek, which devastated the Schoharie Valley in August 2011.
Shaul was among 39 property owners planning to take advantage of a federal hazard mitigation program that will buy out his ruined home. But with local municipalities unable to fund the 25 percent match required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program, the retired farmer was facing the reality of getting only 75 percent of the pre-flood value of his property back.
Federal funds will now pick up the 25 percent match, state officials announced Monday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will use $48.5 million from a recently approved federal Community Development Block Grant to cover the match requirement for the buyout costs associated with Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
“The destruction and devastation caused by the combined impact of Irene and Lee has left a lasting impression on the landscape of all of the communities that bore the brunt of these two powerful storms,” Cuomo said in a news release. “By assuming the 25 percent share of the costs for the buyouts, we can help individual property owners and their communities continue their recovery and restore their lives.”
The funding was introduced as part of disaster-relief federal legislation passed by Congress in January. The bill made it possible for block grant funding to be used to cover local cost shares in the two damaging storms in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc in the downstate region in November 2012.
“The local communities hammered by [Irene and Lee] are still cash-strapped and in need of support to implement these types of programs,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “We’re glad the state is doing it.”
A total of 19 counties are eligible for the grant funding. Albany, Schoharie and Montgomery counties are among them.
Roughly 1,143 properties are in line for buyouts. The estimated cost for all the projects totals more than $194 million, according to state estimates.
The properties are all located in flood-prone areas. Once the structures on them are leveled, the land will no longer be able to be developed and removed from the tax rolls.
Montgomery County has a total of seven properties that will be bought by the program for a cost of $1.19 million, according to figures provided by the governor’s office. Albany County has one property that will be purchased for $203,000.
In Schoharie, a total of 51 parcels will bought up by the program. They include ones devastated on Priddle, Smith Camp and Junction roads in Esperance; Karkerdorf Road, Sunset Drive and Bridge Street in Schoharie; on Route 30, Middlefort Road and Scribner and Baker avenues in Middleburgh; in the hamlet of Breakabeen in the town of Fulton; in the hamlet of North Blenheim in the town of Blenheim; on Taibbi Road in the town of Gilboa; and on Route 145 in the town of Broome.
The cost to buy these properties is estimated at $7.3 million. Without the latest round of federal funding, the total local match would have been roughly $1.8 million — a cost that was insurmountable by the local communities.
“We were scrambling for ways to come up with that match,” said Schoharie County Senior Planner Shane Nickle. “It’s definitely welcome news.”
Nickle said the funding came as the owners of the affected properties were preparing to “donate” the remaining 25 percent so they could at least get back 75 percent of the pre-flood value of their properties. He said many are getting ready to move forward this spring.
“This comes at a good time,” he said.
For Shaul, the extra 25 percent means he’ll finally be able to start construction on a new home for his family of seven, which has resided in a two-family building he owns in Middleburgh since the flood. With more money coming back from the sale of his home, he’ll at last be able to afford the modular home he has planned on a hill that overlooks the place where his destroyed home now stands.
“It means an awful lot,” he said. “We took such a loss anyway. Getting 100 percent back from the house will make a big difference in building another house.”