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Latest on Bay County Voluntary Home Buyout Program for Struggling Homeowners

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Heavy rain and flash flooding are an all-too-familiar combination for Bay County residents. Although most areas are cleaned the next day, not everyone is so lucky.

The county has been working to help a select few owners who just can’t get a break.

They say that when it rains, it rains. For six owners of Riviera Beach, on the far west side of Panama City Beach, the constant rain caused irreversible damage.

“It was an unusual situation,” said Keith Bryant, Bay County infrastructure manager. “That area, the water never went down. It’s kind of a 14-foot bowl. And those six houses were at the bottom of the bowl.

Bay County used about $1.37 million in federal grants to buy the homes last year and brought them a crane in June. The plan is to turn the area into a retention basin so that nothing can ever be built there again.

It’s all part of the Department of Economic Opportunity’s Voluntary Home Buyout program, which helps struggling homeowners in flood-prone areas. The program consists of 17 homes, with approximately $4.5 million in grant funds. But five owners have recently given up, likely due to the lengthy process.

“What it did was it opened up a funding opportunity. The county is therefore seeking to reopen the program for homes that experience repetitive flooding and are in a low-to-moderate income area. Maybe we can go back to seventeen,” Bryant said.

County officials said they will move forward with turning the Riviera Beach land into a retention pond in the coming months. They hope to complete it in 2023.

The buyout program has not yet reopened, but officials said those interested in applying can call the Bay County Department of Public Works at (850) 248-8302.

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