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FEMA Program Expected To Buy Homes From Irene Flooding Victims

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COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) — Dozens of Vermonters who had their homes damaged or destroyed by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene are expected to apply for a federal program to buy their homes from them.

The Hazard Mitigation Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be used to get homes out of flood prone areas.

Vermont’s Hazard Mitigation Officer Ray Doherty said it appears dozens of homeowners are hoping FEMA will buy them out.

“It’s a fairly significant number,” Doherty said.

The owners of the damaged homes do not apply for the buyouts. Rather, the towns they live in will apply on their behalf. If the application is approved, FEMA pays up to 75 percent of a home’s pre-flood value, turning the property over to the town, with the understanding that it won’t be developed again.

The process for calculating which homes qualify and how much buyout money the owner could receive is complex and some towns are deciding not to apply because the process is so difficult.

“These are all FEMA’s rules, not the state’s rules, and they require a fairly healthy amount of documentation,” Doherty said.

Hundreds of Vermont homes were damaged or destroyed in the August flooding. Northfield Zoning Administrator Michelle Braun tells Vermont Public Radio (http://bit.ly/vspeox) 14 homeowners in her town are interested in the program.

Because the FEMA payment is limited to 75 percent of the home’s value, Northfield and other towns are working with the state to find grant money to make up the rest.

“The state is doing a terrific job of thinking creatively about where that 25 percent could come from, because the more match that we can find, the higher level of compensation we can give to property owners,” Braun said.

The first deadline for the mitigation program is Jan. 20. A second round extends into March.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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