The Voluntary Home Buyout program pays the post-disaster fair market value of homes that will be demolished for green space or stormwater management. CONTRIBUTED.

After Hurricane Irma swept the Keys in 2017, the state Department of Economic Opportunity allocated $75 million for the Voluntary Home Buyout program of the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR). The city of Marathon negotiates a deal, buys a home and demolishes it to leave the lot open for use as a “pocket park” green space or for stormwater management. Marathon homeowners have until June 15 to apply and funding is still available in the program.  

The city has $5 million to spend and there are currently seven properties in the program. Three have pre-offers in place, of which two have been accepted and are at DEO for approval. Then, the Marathon City Council can approve the offers and set closing dates. Pre-offers were made at current fair market value. The other four properties are in various stages of the Voluntary Home Buyout program process.  

 “We are looking for additional applicants to complete the program and expend the available grant funds,” said Marathon grants coordinator Maria Covelli.  

A recent rule change means homeowners could recoup a higher value for homes with repetitive damage.  

“Previously, the offers were valued at pre-Irma prices. Now, the Voluntary Buyout pays the post-disaster fair market value,” Covelli said. Most homes in the program fall into the $175,000 to $250,000 range, although the cap for an individual home is $750,000. 

The Voluntary Buyout Program also has a provision for tenants. Renters who need to relocate due to the home being demolished can be provided up to $10,000 for out-of-county relocation expenses or $25,000 for in-county relocation expenses. 

Marathon’s Voluntary Buyout Program may also benefit homeowners who face persistent and unfixable code violations with the attendant fines.  

The program is administered through Tetra Tech, the same contractor managing the program for Monroe County.  “The entire process is moving quickly, so if anyone is interested to see if they qualify, they can check online,” said Covelli. For more information or to apply for the program, click here. To navigate manually, visit the city of Marathon’s website and click on the Planning Department page, and then the Voluntary Buyout tab. For more details, email [email protected] . The final application period will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 15.

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