The first federal grant awarded to Colorado Springs to buy and demolish landslide-damaged homes expired Tuesday, and only six of the 17 homes on the list have been bought out.
Money not spent from the $5.4 million grant is forfeited to the federal government, a contentious notion for homeowners still awaiting buyouts.
Some of them have criticized the city’s process as inefficient and inadequate.
Whether the city will forfeit money remains unanswered. It still has 60 days to file reimbursement requests, Gordon Brenner, the city’s disaster recovery coordinator, said through a spokeswoman. But all work must have been completed by July 16.
Brenner has defended the city’s buyout process, which he’s quick to note is complicated and requires in-depth coordination.
Originally, 27 homes were eligible for the buyout. That list has shrunk to 17, and Brenner said another homeowner is considering dropping off.
FEMA awarded the city another grant for $3.9 million to continue the buyouts. And Brenner has expressed confidence that most, if not all, of the remaining homes can be purchased.
But Tuesday’s deadline and the March 31 deadline for the second grant pose serious concerns for those still waiting four years after landslides destabilized, damaged or destroyed their homes.
Buyouts consist of up to 75% of the project costs, based on the homes’ May 1, 2015, market value, before heavy rains triggered the slides. Project costs include appraisals, tests for lead and asbestos, forensic engineering, demolition and city staff time. Most homeowners will get less than 75% of that project cost.
Brenner said six homes have been purchased and a seventh is in the closing process. Three of the purchased homes have been demolished, and three are getting demolished. The remaining 10 homes still need appraisals, tests, bids or all three.
The Colorado Springs City Council approved the buyout of another home last week, though it’s unclear whether it was completed by Tuesday.