Flood-prone homes being purchased by St. Joseph County

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 5:46 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Consider it the ultimate “bail out.”

Some flood-prone properties in southern St. Joseph County are being purchased by local government through a federal grant.

A dozen deals are expected to be done by the end of the month.

The homes in question are those closest to the Phillips drainage ditch that is associated with severe flooding events in 2016 and 2018.

“These homes in Jewel Woods in this neighborhood saw up to eight feet of water in the basements and the lower levels of these homes. We saw residents being rescued by boat,” said Chris Brown with the St. Joseph County Department of Infrastructure Planning and Growth.

Having been rescued physically, some of the homeowners are now being rescued financially.

“One of the things we heard the feedback, we heard from the property owners is, some people would like to be able to move out but didn’t have the opportunity to do so. We tried to develop that program to make that happen,” added St. Joseph County Commissioner Andy Kostielney.

The original hope was to buy 60 properties, but that list was whittled down to a more manageable number--15.

“To date we have 12 now that are under acquisition. I don’t know what the level of, is it enough? Is it going to prevent flooding? Probably not,” said Chris Brown. “I think we’re just looking at it as, how many homes can we get, how many people can we relocate?”

The total cost of the program is $3.5 million with the federal government paying 75 percent of the costs and the county 25 percent.

The homes will be demolished, and the lots left vacant.

The program is not for everyone. Paul Meribela turned down on offer on his home. He’s banking on improvements he made on his property to the banks of the ditch.

“I don’t think even if the numbers were right for us, I don’t think we would have taken it. We just put so much money in this house it’s like, I don’t know, might as well stick with it.”

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