The new year brings hope for those who were left homeless or with flood-ravaged homes after Tropical Storm Fred passed through.
A state team is opening an office in Haywood County, considered ground zero for flood damages across the region, to administer $44 million in state funding to help fill in the unmet needs for those still reeling from the disaster.
Nels Roseland, deputy budget director for the state budget office, said onsite visits will help determine whether homes can be repaired and where they could be rebuilt on the property that would be out of harm’s way.
“We’ll do our level best to complete the recovery in two to three years,” Roseland said, but that depends on factors such as weather, contractor availability and material supplies, to name a few.
Licensed local contractors are being notified of the opportunity to bid on the work that will happen with the infusion of state funding. In addition, agreements will be made with volunteer organizations such as Baptists on Mission, which has already restored 40 homes in Haywood with donated funding, as well as other groups qualified to help.
“It’s important to pull as many levers as possible to get this done,” Roseland said.
All work done with either relocate the home outside the floodplain or elevate it above the existing flood map levels. Whether the maps accurately depict the likelihood of when flooding will occur is a different discussion for another day, said Richard Trumper senior construction manager at the state recovery office.
A team of engineers will do site assessments and try to find an alternate site on a piece of property to rebuild, he said.
“A lot of folks have higher parts we try to use,” Trumper said. “To keep families on the property is our primary goal.”
Flood insurance will be required for those whose homes are repaired, and the state will pay for the first two years of coverage, Roseland said.
Whether that will be enough to prevent future heartaches from a weather disaster is unknown.
Given that Haywood has experiences three 100-year floods over the course of 17 years, it raises questions about the adequacy of the existing flood maps. Remapping is a process that takes years, said Kris Boyd, director of operations for Haywood County, and is not a process expected to be done soon enough to affect the post-recovery work that needs immediate attention.
While the exact number of homes that need to be replaced or repaired is a moving target, Roseland said there were 2,651 applications for individual assistance through the Federal Emergency Disaster Agency in the region following the storm.
The state funding set aside to rehouse individuals has been broken down in to several categories — $15 million to restore private roads and bridges, $20 million for total home rebuilds, $3 million for home repairs and reimbursements and $4 million for temporary housing until the work is complete. In addition, $2 million was set aside for property repairs for housing facilities owned by landlords where families were displaced by the storm.
Individuals who have privately paid for work to restore their homes, roads or bridges are eligible for reimbursement providing the proper receipts and documentation are available. Work done by volunteers or paid for by donations is not eligible for reimbursement.
Those with homes that were damaged on Aug. 17, 2021, have two paths to recovery. One is to work with FEMA, which will buy the property outright at market value and the other is to rebuild above the expected flood level. That can happen through both state and FEMA programs.