In the wake of devastating storms, Metro leaders hope to buy out frequently flooded homes

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Posted at 6:57 AM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 08:03:00-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Homeowners across Middle Tennessee have spent the last week drying out from devastating floods, and while many hope to clean up and rebuild, state and local leaders say that isn't always the best option.

"Especially in the floodway, which is the most hazardous area in the floodplain, there is no infrastructure that can be built or things that can be done to reduce, eliminate that flooding," Metro Water Service's Sonia Allman said.

Officials estimate that hundreds of Nashville homes currently sit in floodplains and floodways.

"Metro did not have any storm water regulation prior to 1979, and there were no flood maps prior to 1982, so unfortunately we have a lot of homes that are built in a high risk area," Allman explained.

Over the last decade, Metro Nashville has tried to remove those high risk houses by pairing with TEMA and FEMA on a home buy-out program, where officials use a mix of local, state and federal money to buy homes that are frequently flooded.

Before the May 2010 floods, Metro had purchased about 90 at-risk homes. Since then, more than 400 homes have been involved in the buy-out program.

"We are able to purchase those homes, we remove the homes and that becomes green space so when the property floods, and it will flood again, it does not cause any harm to a family," Allman said.

Allman said when homes are valued during a buy-out program, previous flooding isn't taken into account. That means homeowners are able to get a fair price for the property.

"Many resident know that if you have a home that's flooded, it's difficult to sell that home," Allman said. "It gives the family that was living there the money and the ability to relocate to a much safer area."

Now, after the latest rounds of flooding, homeowners are able to find out if they're eligible for the voluntary program. Officials say it's important for people with frequent flooding problems to look into it, because the buy-out option isn't always available

"We have several homes that years ago we offered them a buyout and they chose to stay, and then later on they decide, 'oh no we want to sell the house,' and at that point there may not have been funding," Allman said.

The buy-out program can last up to two years, and Allman said homeowners are able to back out of the process at any time before closing.