After Irma flood, home buyout program offered in Bonita Springs

Published: September 23, 2022 5:17 PM EDT
Updated: September 23, 2022 6:40 PM EDT

The flood damage in Bonita Springs during Irma in 2017 was so bad the federal government sent the city $5 million to make sure the same damage wouldn’t occur again.

The program was supposed to be used to buy homes that suffered severe flooding, but five years later, the city has only purchased three homes. The city is supposed to buy them at market value.

But Bonita Springs leaders hope to buy many more and they have until 2025, when the program ends, to do so.

Category 3 storm Irma hit Southwest Florida hard, and lots of people suffered. The hurricane dropped so much rain that the Imperial River overflowed into one neighborhood.

After Irma flooded Bonita Springs in 2017, the federal government gave the city $5 million to buy the affected homes. (CREDIT: WINK News)

All Beatriz Perez could do is float through the floodwaters.

“All these houses were flooded. You know, we went in through with a little boat. We went inside of houses and the streets and it was flooded,” she said.

The water reached her second step.

Perez said she attended the meetings on the buyout program but she is not ready to leave her home.

“We didn’t sell is because long time ago they promised that they will fix that river,” Perez said.

Ray Hoyer, who lives in the area, said it’s overwhelming.

After Irma flooded Bonita Springs in 2017, the federal government gave the city $5 million to buy the affected homes. (CREDIT: WINK News)

She lived and still lives in Bonita Springs. She and so many of her neighbors had to rebuild their homes and their lives.

“This is the water line,” Hoyer said. “I had over a foot of water in my home.”

Elly McKuen, a senior project manager with the Bonita Springs Public Works Department, said after the extensive flooding during Irma, the city applied for buyout funds to reduce the impact of future disasters.

If a homeowner decided to sell his or her home to the city, the city would knock it down and turn the property into natural green space, recreation or storm water management.

“Every house that we purchase, we have moved that family to higher ground. So they’re not repeatedly underwater, and not have, you know, not repeatedly having to, to repair and be out of their house for months at a time,” McKuen said.

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