The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) allocated a total of $27 million for the Rebuild Florida Voluntary Home Buyout Program (VHBP) to assist local governments in the Panhandle in purchasing properties that experienced damage during Hurricane Michael and repeatedly flood due to being located in a high-risk flood area or floodplain. Throughout October and November of 2020, the City of Panama City conducted outreach to homeowners in eligible target areas and gathered the state-required documentation for submission of an application to DEO by November 30, 2020.
On January 28, 2021, DEO notified the City of an Intent to Award totaling $5 million for the implementation of the VHBP. Although the City submitted an application for a total of $7.2 million for the 37 homes that pre-registered, DEO has limited all awards to a maximum amount of $5 million at this time. The City is in discussions with DEO regarding the additional $2.2 million needed to meet the needs of all homeowners who expressed interest in the program and will communicate with applicants via email as program updates become available. The City is committed to implementing the VHBP as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In accordance with program guidelines developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Florida DEO, the City will purchase these homes at pre-Hurricane Michael fair market value as determined by an appraiser licensed in the state of Florida. The home will be demolished and the land will serve as green space in perpetuity, stormwater drainage, or for recreational purposes, and will carry a permanent deed restriction prohibiting future redevelopment.
In the coming weeks, the City will be working closely with DEO to develop and execute a grant agreement for the awarded funds. This agreement will enable the City to launch the program and begin environmental assessments and certified appraisals.
In order to implement the program, the City will seek the technical expertise and staff augmentation of experienced vendor services in the areas of administrative support, survey, appraisals, legal and closings, environmental assessments, historical assessments, and demolition services.
The information below depicts the steps in the process with an estimated timeline for completion. All dates provided are subject to change.
Estimated Timeline for Completion
- Execute Program Agreement – The City of Panama City and DEO must both sign the Subrecipient Agreement, which details the terms, conditions, and requirements of the program.
- Estimated completion: May 31, 2021
- Contract with Experienced Vendors – The City will evaluate, prioritize, and select vendors and execute contracts for program services.
- Estimated completion: August 30, 2021
- Set-up Program – In accordance with federal, state, and local requirements, the City will establish all required regulatory processes and procedures for implementation of the program.
- Estimated start: September 30, 2021
- Complete and Obtain Environmental Assessment Approval – The City will complete a broad-level environmental assessment as required by federal regulations and obtain clearance from the Florida DEO to proceed with program activities.
- Estimated completion: November 30, 2021
- Open Formal Application Period – The City will consult with each pre-registered applicant to complete a formal application and obtain all required documentation.
- Estimated completion: December 1, 2021 – January 31, 2022
- Buy Homes – The City will complete the buyout process including conducting surveys, appraisals, title searches, site specific environmental assessments, acquisition negotiations, and closing procedures for the VHBP.
- Estimated start: February 15, 2022
The VHBP is strictly voluntary, and participating homeowners may decline to sell their home at any point prior to the closing, risk free. The City will continue to communicate the next steps of the VHBP process with those homeowners who submitted interest forms using the email addresses provided. Questions, concerns, and comments can be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.