With the arrival of 2011, it’s now been more than 30 months since Cedar Rapids was devastated by record flooding and hundreds of homes still sit vacant, moldy and rotting. Greg Eyerly, director of the city’s Flood Recovery project, says they’re only halfway through the process of buying properties so the homes can be flattened. Some 600 flooded homes are still tied up in paperwork and federal red tape, out of 1,200 total properties.
“This is the city’s number-one priority and it always has been,” Eyerly says. “It’s an excruciatingly, painfully detailed, slow process we’re trying to push through.” The floods hit in mid-2008 but some flooded homeowners are still waiting for a check from the city. Eyerly says it could take eight to 12 more months to get through the process. He says most homeowners will get 140% to 180% of their home’s pre-flood value.
“We require all this information, all this documentation,” he says. “It’s not a pleasant process for the homeowner to have to go through.” One of the biggest obstacles is getting rid of liens or loans against the property. That can be anything from a contractor’s lien, spousal support or child support, he says, anything that would not give the property a clear title. Another problem is upside-down mortgages, when homeowners owe more than the house is worth.
Scott Shook is director of Horizons, which does credit counseling for some of the homeowners. Shook acts as a mediator between the homeowner and the mortgage company. “We basically are telling the mortgage companies, here’s the situation, what can we do to work this out?” Shook says. “We don’t hear from the lenders for a long time, if at all, so we have to keep continuing to contact them. That’s mostly frustrating.”
The city is also working with local law firms and other credit counseling services to get through the buyout process. Even with the challenges, the city says it’s on track to finish all of the buyouts by December of 2011.
By Nadia Crow, KCRG, Cedar Rapids