Learn about buyouts and acquisitions and participating in a local program.
About buyouts and acquisitions
The term “buyout” and “acquisition” are often utilized interchangeably, but in the context of flood protection, both refer generally to the purchase of private property by the government for public use. Not all acquisition programs are the same, depending on federal, state and local regulations that have enacted the program. It is much more common to hear about buyout programs, which are enacted through FEMA after a federally-declared disaster. These programs purchase property in high risk areas in order to prevent losses from future disasters. After properties are purchased through a buyout program, the land is converted to open space. Participation in these programs are completely voluntary.
Acquisition refers to the purchase of private property by the government for public use. In the case of flood acquisitions, the process involves the purchase of a property in a floodway in order to reduce the damage of future flooding on the site and/or for properties adjacent to the one being acquired.
A flooded property from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago - Chicago, Illinois
Buyout programs are a specific subset of property acquisitions in which private lands are purchased, existing structures demolished, and the land maintained in an undeveloped state for public use in perpetuity. Acquisition of a property in a floodway is intended to reduce the risk of future flooding for the property and/or those adjacent.
Red River Grand Forks, North Dakota 1997 flood events led to buy-outs across the state
Benefits of these programs
While it is difficult to think about leaving a place that is home, voluntary buyout and acquisitions often provide an opportunity for homeowners to leave high-risk areas. When a home is damaged by disaster, homeowners may also be required to pay not only for the repair, but also the increased flood insurance requirements or structural improvements to meet new building codes. Buyout programs, when available, regulate that property is purchased based on the fair pre-flood market value, allowing an opportunity for homeowners to sell when it may be difficult to recover or recoup home value loss. In addition, these programs also provide a permanent form of flood protection by removing people away from harm forever as the property is permanently converted to open space.
Home purchase eligibility
Buyouts and acquisition programs are usually funded by federal entities such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, they are administered by and sometimes funded by state and local governments. A disaster does not need to have occurred in order for these programs to be enacted. If your home has been affected by major flooding, the best way to find out if your home is eligible to be purchased is to contact your local government offices or a FEMA regional office and ask if there are programs available in your area.
Limitations of programs
It is important to know that there are usually many more interested parties than funds available for buyouts and acquisitions, even following major disaster events. Further, selling a home through these federal programs generally takes months or even years from application to finish and therefore, it may be very difficult to continue to pay to repair and live in properties before the transfer of property is fully realized.