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Pender County to move forward with hurricane buyout program

Aerial views of damage from Hurricane Florence in North Carolina.
Carol Guzy for NPR
For homeowners still waiting to receive their grants after Hurricane Florence, this means a step forward in that process.

The Pender Board of County Commissioners voted at their meeting Monday to enter into an agreement with the state, moving forward with what has been a lengthy disaster mitigation grant process.

After Hurricane Florence in 2018, homeowners could apply to the FEMA hazard mitigation grant program to have their properties either elevated, or demolished and returned to a natural, undeveloped state.

In return for the latter, they would receive money for their home at pre-storm market value.

Eighty-one properties were approved for demolition in Pender County. But over four years later, many people are still waiting.

This recent agreement between Pender County and North Carolina formally allows the state to hire contractors to demolish homes in the program.

According to Pender County staff, a contractor has been selected and the county commissioners' signoff was the last step needed before work can begin.

Each house will have to go through an appraisal and other preparations, and the county must officially own the property before it’s demolished. The project timeline is expected to take roughly 10 months.

Homeowners in this program can expect to receive their grant money before the start of the demolition process.

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.