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St. Charles County gets federal aid to buy out homes damaged in 2019 floods

Housing illustration
Kaz Fantone
/
NPR
Hundreds of St. Charles County homes damaged in 2019 flooding are eligible to be bought out after a new drop of federal funding. But county leaders say the support is limited.

A 2019 flood devastated more than 90,000 acres in St. Charles County. More than 5 years later, residents can sell their damaged homes to the county. Applications for the $15.7 million buyout opened March 1.

A number of homes in St. Charles County, Portage Des Sioux, West Alton and parts of St. Charles City will be demolished.

More than 900 residents will receive a letter inviting them to apply. The majority of homeowners won’t get any further.

“There’s not enough money for everyone,” said Kevin Killeen, managing director of communications for St. Charles County.

The $15.7 million grant will pay for no more than 100 homes. An assessment by St. Charles County estimates $106.2 million in flood damage.

Properties will be eligible if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Primary residence, a residential owner-occupied home at the time of the flood event and is the current property owner.

This includes owner-occupants when they are:

  • Heirs and assigns of a deceased owner-occupant in 2019 are eligible owners.
  • Deployed military personnel that are owners.
  • Primary residence, residential owner-occupied with up to three residential tenant units within the same structure as the owner-occupant

The following will not be eligible:

  • Properties that were second homes at the time of the event.
  • Properties that have been sold since the 2019 flood now have a different owner.

“For those who don't qualify for this particular grant, there are future funding opportunities,” said Robert Myers, director of the planning and zoning division for St. Charles County. “But they're also each year limited to just a handful. So this is why this one is really a big opportunity. We're hopeful that this can really help people out.”

Myers said homes are chosen based on “a very detailed prioritization list.” Federal and local representatives will favor homeowners 65 and older and those with a disability. Low to moderate-income households must make up 70% of the buyout program, according to criteria set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

The process is expected to conclude by early 2027. The newly acquired land won’t be used for housing again, Myers said. The money is intended to help people to move out of the floodplain.

“There are people who live in the floodplain and their family has been there for generations and they've learned to live with flooding,” Myers said. “It's just a traditional community, but I would say that homeowners are eligible to participate in this program if they choose to.”

A buyout in 1993 involved more than 1,000 homes in the same area. Some of the same residents are eligible 30 years later.

“We've benefitted from that for years and years, by keeping people off the path for flooding, avoiding property damage and also risking their lives,” Myers said.

Lauren Brennecke is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio and a recent graduate of Webster University.