More than a year and a half after floods damaged homes near Williamson Creek, some of those homeowners will be offered a buyout from the city of Austin.
Austin City Council voted June 4 to initiate a voluntary buyout of up to 63 homes in the area costing no more than $17,986,000, or about $285,492 per home. Changes were made to the original buyout plan during a June 4 meeting before any vote was taken.
Qualifying property owners are required to have owned or rented out the home since before the October 2013 floods, and the property must have been affected in those floods.
Staff told council they were not aware of how many homes would be excluded from the buyout with those conditions. Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo represents District 9, which includes parts of Central Austin. She said she worries about leaving some homes out of the buyout program because the program’s intent is to move residents out of harm’s way. Excluding some homes may not fully accomplish that mission, she said.
Many council members also voiced concern about future buyouts being subjected to the same regulations and expectations as the Williamson Creek buyouts because there is no formal city policy on flood buyouts.
“I want to make sure we develop a policy so we can equitably and equally handle these issues citywide,” District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo said. “My heart goes out to people at risk of flooding, but my concern is [the financial strain of treating flood plain-area residents equally].”
If buyouts of the same value being offered to Williamson Creek homeowners were offered to all other flood plain residents, it would cost about $454 million, according to District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman.
Council members unanimously approved the buyout, with District 2 Council Member Delia Garza absent.
Fairview Estates neighborhood resident Kelly Davis-Burns, who said she has lived in the Williamson Creek area for 20 years, said the first round of buyouts affect her and some neighbors who saw flooding during an Oct. 13, 2013 storm.
“I really appreciate that our mayor and City Council are looking after the safety and well-being of the citizens and that they are addressing this straight-on and thinking in these fair-minded ways,” she said.
She said residents want the city to follow federal Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for buyouts, which would mean offering residents a fair market value plus other funds for relocation expenses.
“I still have a lot to think about,” she said. “...We want a fair deal.”