Feds, State May Buy, Raze Flood-Prone N.H. Homes

By Ron Sanders, WBZ-TV

SALEM, N.H. (CBS) — Some of the people who live in nearly two dozen homes prone to flooding in Salem, New Hampshire are actually looking forward to having them demolished.   That’s because federal and state government are in the process of buying the homes at fair market value.
Standing water outside Linda Mateo’s living room window and the dark cloud hanging over her neighborhood on Haigh Avenue Wednesday was a grim reminder that her home is flood prone.

“The National Guard had to come and rescue us.” 

Linda was talking about the Mother’s Day flood of 2006 when she took home video of her flooded basement and ducks swimming in her backyard a week after the flood.  Now, she is one of 14 homeowners in her neighborhood applying for a federal grant to buy and raze their houses.  FEMA would pickup 75 percent of the tab; the state of New Hampshire 25 percent.
“But it was a great neighborhood and it really is bittersweet,” said Mateo.  She and her husband will leave behind memories of raising their college-bound daughter in the house, but they’ve also lost many keepsake photos to flooding.   They’re being offered $260,000 for the house they bought for $178,000 seven years ago.  “It’s extremely fair,” said Mateo.
The Mateos’ neighbor Jim Roach agrees. Reflecting upon the 30 years his family has spent in their house, he is ready to move away from the Spicket River that flows past their backyards. 

“Take what you can get and get rid of the aggravation,” said Roach.  He and his wife were planning on moving before the 2006 flood.  He said he couldn’t do better in the current real estate market than the offer he has received.
Nine houses, already bought with grant money, used to stand at the end of Haigh Avenue. They were torn down earlier this fall. All that stood there Wednesday was water after only a couple hours of rain. 

“I only wish they could work faster because spring has yet to hit here,” said Roach.
“We’re hopeful because we were able to accomplish the first phase, nine homes, within nine months,” explained William Scott, Salem Community Development Director, who is coordinating the applications. 

He believes the federal government will look favorably upon the applications of the 14 remaining homeowners.  He said razing their houses would save local public safety and evacuation expenses during floods.  It also saves New Hampshire the cost of acquiring wetland mitigation acreage near I-93 which runs behind some of the houses.
The homeowners expect a decision in June.  Even after the decision is announced, funds to buy them probably would not be released until about a year from now.

  • Dave

    So the federal government may be overpaying people for their mistakes/their property? As property values are on the decline, it looks like the federal govt is not looking at property value when buying up these homes. The $260K for a home sold just seven years ago at $176K is a nearly 50% profit. Who wouldn’t take it but then why are our tax dollars buying at such a premium? Will the govt. buy my house at a 50% premium over value 7 years ago?

  • shotime

    Dave, my sentiments exactly. It’s fairly safe to assume that if there was no future use for this land, the Fed/State’s offering price would be below, not higher than fair market value. Something smells pretty fishy in Salem, and it isn’t coming from the river!

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