County weighs buy-outs of homes

Published 12:05 pm Tuesday, June 26, 2018

By Chris Moore


BEAUMONT — Jefferson County Commissioners decided to table an agenda item so that the court could hold a workshop to gain information on a home buy-out program in which the county might participate.

“I wanted to discuss this because the Texas General Land Office reached out to me,” Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said. “They asked me to indicate the county’s level of interest in a buy-out or acquisition of properties in flood-prone areas. There was a buy-out in Hillebrandt Acres off of (Highway) 365 in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. HUD has approved $213 million to flow through the state for buy-outs and acquisitions.”

Branick said there is a difference between a buy-out program and an acquisition.

“In a buy-out program, the homes that are in the floodways would be bought out at pre-disaster market value. The upside to that is that it gets homes out of flood-prone areas. The downside to it is the county has to follow all of the environmental regulations, do asbestos testing, tear down the structure and hold the structure in perpetuity. When you have an area like Country Lane Estates, and you have 50 homes and 30 of them chose to be bought out, the remaining 20 are very anxious for the county to continue to maintain those lots. They want to keep them mowed and so forth. That gets to be a very expensive proposition for the county.”

Branick said the acquisition program allowed the county to acquire the homes at post-disaster market value.

“If a home had 5 feet of water in it, it’s going to be worth probably 40 percent of what it was pre-disaster. There may not be as many people willing to participate in that program. The good news is, when you do acquisition at post-disaster value, you are not required to hold those in perpetuity. You can turn around and sell them after the structure is demolished. We can put this back on the agenda next week.”

Branick said that there is a possibility to use both options, but he said he preferred the acquisition program because the county would not have to hold the properties.

“In the acquisition program, we could demolish them and then turn around and post them to be sold with an auction or listing them with a realtor,” he said.

Commissioner of Precinct 1 Eddie Arnold requested a workshop with someone who can further inform them about the programs and to buy time to gauge the public’s response.

The participant or the time of the workshop had not been determined Monday.