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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

New buyout program aims to prevent flooding damage in Pender County, Southeast NC

This map shows the counties identified as "Most Impacted and Distressed" (MID) by the state and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These counties will be eligible for NCORR's new strategic buyout program.
North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency
This map shows the counties identified as "Most Impacted and Distressed" (MID) by the state and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These counties will be eligible for NCORR's new strategic buyout program.

At Tuesday’s Pender County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, leaders heard about a new state program that could buy out homes in flood prone areas.

Pender officials have been working with the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, or NCORR, to identify two zones in the county where properties would be eligible for a buyout.

NCORR Strategic Buyout Program Director Maggie Battaglin said the agency uses FEMA flood maps to help establish those zones.

“We look for areas that we believe will help us reach our goals from a HUD perspective of serving folks that are low to moderate income, and then areas that are at an exceptional risk for flooding in the future,” she said.

The state’s $182 million program is fully funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Pender is one of 23 counties in the state that are eligible.

Several counties have buyout zones that are already active, such as Robeson, Columbus, and Cumberland.

The voluntary program buys out homes at the current fair market value and returns the property to a natural, undeveloped state. There are additional incentives for some homeowners to relocate to safer areas within the county or state.

Applicants must own the property and be able to sell it. NCORR sends out appraisers to determine the value of the property before making an offer.

Those who are currently in other buyout programs, such as the hazard mitigation grant program under FEMA, are not eligible unless they withdraw from those programs.

NCORR’s RebuildNC Homeowner Recovery program, intended to help low-income families rebuild their homes after Hurricanes Matthew and Florence, has come under fire from the General Assembly for the program’s lengthy and complicated process.

NCORR's Strategic Buyout program is targeted to property owners in specific areas. But it could help fill the gaps for homeowners who withdrew from the Homeowner Recovery Program or other buyout programs because of frustrations, said Battaglin.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify the titles of separate programs under NCORR and Strategic Buyout Program Director Maggie Battaglin's title.

Grace is a multimedia journalist recently graduated from American University. She's attracted to issues of inequity and her reporting has spanned racial disparities in healthcare, immigration detention and college culture. In the past, she's investigated ICE detainee deaths at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, worked on an award-winning investigative podcast, and produced student-led video stories.