Council buys out another 140 Onion Creek-area homes

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Council has decided to buyout more homes in the Onion Creek neighborhood after the 2013 Halloween floods ravaged homes there.

The city first approved emergency funding for 160 homes, but another 140 were left out.

The Watershed Protection Department asked the Austin City Council to purchase the remaining 140 homes in Lower Onion Creek watershed. Those homes fall within the 25-year floodplain but sit outside the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, buyout project from the late 1990s.

The buyouts would cost taxpayers $31 million. $23.5 million is available in this year’s Watershed Protection Department budget. The remaining $7.5 million would come from future budgets.

The City of Austin has already torn down some properties they purchased since the floods. Others sit vacant, plastered with no trespassing signs and green marks on the garages.

Willie Chambers is in the process fixing up his flooded home. His home sits in the 25-year floodplain but didn’t qualify for the emergency buyouts after the Halloween floods. Volunteers from American Youthworks have been by his home to install new drywall. Flooring will go in last, but Chambers says the rehab could be put on hold if a city buyout becomes an option.

“You put ceramic tile in there, you could have another flood and be good to go,” he said. “But if another flood of that nature was to hit me again…I mean immediately after this one, I wanted to just walk away.”

Between 1999 and October 2013, the city purchased 323 homes within the USACE study buyout area. The money for those buyouts came from FEMA, drainage utility fees and a bond voters approved in 2006.

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