City of Des Moines Buys Flood-Damaged Homes for $11.5 Million

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The City of Des Moines gave some much-needed relief to flood victims on Monday.

“All 80 homes would be bought out at 110% of their assessed value, plus all of the demolition costs at that price. We are hoping to have some partners with that $11.5 million. That was part of our motion, that our city manager work with some of the other entities, specifically Polk County and Polk County Conservation. Hopefully they would partner with us especially in the Four Mile area,” Ward IV Councilman Joe Gatto said.

These homes are the ones the city has deemed to be in the worst condition and shouldn’t be rebuilt.

“My fear, personally, I think my colleagues felt the same way, is if we allow them to build we are going to be right back in the same situation, and we just can’t have that anymore,” Gatto said.

He said if they had waited for funds from FEMA, people would have been in limbo for years. However, with buyout money from the city, some people can start putting their lives back together.

“Obviously if they still have a mortgage, they’re going to have to pay off their mortgage with that and take the rest of their money and go purchase another house where they feel safe. Because right now a lot of them don’t feel safe,” Gatto said

Alan Lamb is one of the many feeling this way. He has lived on East 35th Street for 40 years.

“They should have never allowed houses to be built here, but we was young and me and my wife was young. And we seen that house and it had the big yard and I said, 'oh, I can fix it up nice for you, dear.' And so that's what I did. But now I wish I had never bought this house,” Lamb said.

He’s been through several floods, but this one was the last straw.

“I was scared to death. I was absolutely scared to death. I said, oh my god, I’m going to die this time, and it was really terrible,” Lamb said.

He said the damage was so bad he doesn’t want to go through fixing it again.

“When the sewer started backing up in my basement, I have a finished basement, finished real nice, it was blowing feces out of the toilet, four to five foot high, and then I ran back upstairs. And then the water started coming. It came in so fast. I couldn’t believe how fast it came in,” Lamb said.

Now he’s hoping the city will step in for him as it has done for several others.

“They got good intentions, but it’s going to take a lot more. More money and more houses, because this area should have never been built in. City of Des Moines, please buy my house,” Lamb said.

Homeowners wanting to repair the damage done by flooding can also apply for a five-year, no interest loan through the city for up to $6,000.