City officials in Cedar Rapids have begun re-inspecting some of the homes that were hit the hardest by last June’s record flooding. Utilities director Pat Ball says the homes were marked with a red placard to indicate they had significant structural damage and now they are going back to a group of them for another look.
He says that includes 200 homes that had not had any building permits or work done on them other than cleaning them out. Ball says they will concentrate on those houses to see if they can be deemed an "imminent threat to health or property." Ball says if the homes are deemed a threat, they will move forward with the process of tearing them down.
Ball says there is some paperwork and rules that have to be followed to qualify for funds from FEMA to tear down the houses. One of the issues is getting a "right of entry" to go on the property and inspect the homes to see if they qualify for demolition funds under FEMA’s rules. Ball says the city goes through the demolition process for some homes every year — but the magnitude has changed with the flooding.
Ball says they normally look at 10 to 20 homes a year under a normal process, so "this is obviously significantly higher than that." He says there are also some extra rules in this case to qualify for reimbursement from FEMA. Ball says if approval is given, the FEMA funds would be used to tear down the houses, and then it’s up to the property owner to decide what to do next.
Ball says the property is still the property of the owner and they are not acquiring the properties at this point. He says they properties could eventually be purchased under another program, but the focus right now is to remove the dangerous structures. There was tension among homeowners who were forced out by flooding and not let back in some homes that were damaged. Ball says there are different levels of reaction now as they move ahead with the demolition phase.
Ball says it depends on the individual circumstance, as he says some have been able to get in and do some reconstruction. He says some of the properties that were originally considered "significantly structurally damaged" have been rebuilt.
"I think most of the people are understanding of why some of these things need to happen. I think more than anything they’re hoping that some of these things happen faster," Ball says. Ball says letters were sent out to property owners explaining what is happening. He says they will try to do the re-inspections in groups of 70 houses.