Oneida will start demolishing vacant city homes in flood zones

Local News

Within the next two weeks, the City of Oneida will start tearing down dozens of vacant homes in an area known as the Flats. 

The homes were left vacant four years ago, after homeowners took buyouts from FEMA after a major flood swept thru the city. 

In total, 154 homes will be demolished — the first 30 set to be torn down in the next two weeks. 

“Our goal is one a day,” explained Mayor Leo Matzke. “Once we start that we need to think five years from now how do we protect the people who are staying.” 

Ten commercial properties will also be demolished but need to pass environmental screenings before the buyout can proceed. 

The flood cycle for that community is around every 30 years, according to the mayor. Matzke plans to figure out solutions to mitigate flooding in the future for families who chose to stay in the Flats. 

He also wants to develop the soon-vacant lands with parks, gardens and potentially a new soccer field. 

“We fixed the house up the way we wanted and did all that work and didn’t want to take the buyout,” said Mary Parsons, a neighbor who passed up a buyout. 

Many families, including Parsons and her late husband, fixed up their home with state aid offered months before the FEMA buyouts. Once buyouts were on the table, FEMA deducted the amount of state aid families received from their offer. The lower buyout price motivated some homeowners to pass it up, not wanting to lose money.  

But selling is now nearly impossible because buyers are avoiding sky-high flood insurance, which has tripled since 2013,  and neighborhoods turned ghost towns.

“A lot of people are gone and its not gonna be the same. It’s just not,” she said. “I’d like to take buyouts if I had a chance to do it now.”

A second buyout will be offered to homeowners who chose to stay. Depending on the amount leftover, the money will likely be distributed through a lottery system.

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