Gonzales flood survivors consider home buyout plan

Gonzales flood survivors consider home buyout plan

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Homeowners who live in one of the most flood prone areas in the City of Gonzales may have the chance at starting over in a new neighborhood. The city is spreading the word about a federal buyout plan, but many residents say they are not interested.

Homeowner, Joe West, is taking advantage of Mother Nature's spell of good weather by putting the finishing touches on his front yard. He says it, and his home of 29 years, took a beating last August.

"When the flood came, I had six sandbags high around my house with four pumps running and I still got water," said West.

Flooding is nothing new to West and most of his neighbors on East Silverleaf St.

"We get hard rains in a short period of time. It fills up so fast. There's no place for the water to go," said West.

West says his house has flooded three times and it's why he has hundreds of sandbags on standby ready to protect his home. "I have sandbagged many a time, sometimes I've sandbagged twice, three times a year," said West.

New homeowner, Tracy Babineaux, says she just poured her life's savings into her house when the August flood hit.

"We moved in at the end of June. We went to Idaho to get the rest of my belongings out of storage and bring them back here and we came back to a flood," said Babineaux.

Because flooding is so common on that particular street, the City of Gonzales sent out a letter telling homeowners they would like to help them connect with a federal USDA program that buys flood-damaged properties. The homeowners' payouts would be based on their homes' appraisals before the flood, but homeowners WAFB spoke with say it's not to their benefit.

"I'd come out with maybe $60,000 at the most. I cannot afford to go take that and go buy another home," said West.

Babineaux, who bought her home through an auction, says the city's offer would hardly cover her investment. "It's just not fair. We're not being treated fair," said Babineaux.

City leaders declined an on-camera interview, but released the following statement through their spokeswoman, Charlotte Smith:

The City of Gonzales Mayor and Council have been committed to assisting residents who suffered greatly due to the flooding in August 2016. Our City Engineer, Jackie Baumann, has been researching funding sources in order to best ensure that the needs of those residents are met. This buyout is only a possibility at this time. We will privately meet with each resident this buyout may affect. If that is the direction they wish to take, as they feel it is in their best interest, we will continue to do all we can to move this project forward. If this buyout comes to fruition, the payments to residents will be based on pre-flood appraisals.

For the buyout program to work, every homeowner on E Silverleaf St. would have to agree to sell.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.