Fort Worth considers buying homes in flood zone

Homes being bought by the city could become a reality in this Fort Worth neighborhood hit hard by flooding in June. Lauren Zakalik reports.

FORT WORTH -- They are scenes that have played out year after year in Fort Worth's Arlington Heights neighborhood: Rainwater comes down so fast and so fiercely, homes and streets don't stand a chance.

"It's been over the dashboards of cars here," Councilman Dennis Shingleton said of the floods. "Devastating."

Shingleton represents the area in question, near Camp Bowie and Hulen.

"These homes were built in the late 1920s, early 1930s, and they were built on a creek bed," he said.

The City of Fort Worth recently spent millions of dollars installing a retention basin off Hulen and underground culverts to help mitigate the floods. But some fear those efforts aren't enough.

Now, the city is re-opening the possibility of buying people's homes that sit in the path of the floods. The idea is they would replace the homes with green spaces to better control the flowing rainwater and protect remaining homes. At the same time, they'd be taking problematic properties off people's hands.

"Since the June 27 deluge here, we have had four homeowners approach us and say, ‘We’re interested in that discussion," Shingleton said.

"There was quite an uproar about it when it first came up," says homeowner Kari Kirkham.

Kirkham has lived in the neighborhood for years, and says the idea was unpopular when it was first proposed years ago. She doesn't know if the reaction will be different this time.

"That's going to be a hard one, because the fact the property values have gone up and it's such a seller’s market," Kirkham said. "It would depend on what the city's offering to buy your house for."

John Morris, who sits on the board for the neighborhood association, says he feels the city is "jumping the gun." He says he's opposed to buyouts, and wishes the city would instead focus its efforts on finding a permanent, alternative fix for the floods. He also worries that having vacant land would depress home values.

Shingleton says it's far too early to say what formula they'd use to make monetary offers on homes. It's also too early to know which, or how many, homes they'd want to buy. Some early estimates show between 30 and 40 homes could be part of the affected area.

The councilman says there will be public meetings as well as discussions in council on the topic, and pointed out it is just a discussion, for now.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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