Three more houses damaged by landslides in 2015 could be bought out under a proposal being considered by the Colorado Springs City Council.
But after this round of proposed purchases, there isn’t enough money to help the remaining owners of landslide-damaged homes, said Gordon Brenner, the city’s recovery coordinator.
For Walter “Buddy” Catron, 70, that means losing the equity from his retirement home at 4840 Broadmoor Bluffs Drive.
“We moved here in 2002, built the house just like we wanted it, and then this crap happened,” Catron said.
Now, he said, it’s as if he and his wife have been forgotten by city, state and federal representatives. Many politicians visited soon after the damage was done. But they’ve since disappeared, Catron said, and he’s received only “lip service” in recent years.
Slow-moving landslides after record rains in the spring and summer of 2015 severely damaged or destroyed dozens of homes in the Lower Skyway and Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhoods.
The city has bought three houses, using Hazard Mitigation Grant Program money allocated through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And the City Council in January approved the purchases of three more homes, for a total of six. Those are at 1004 and 1010 Zodiac Drive, 1200 Constellation Drive and 4860, 4880 and 4890 Broadmoor Bluffs Drive.
Monday, Brenner sought approval to buy three more, at 904 and 1002 Zodiac Drive and 315 Haversham Drive. The city might be able to buy one more, he said. But that still would leave 10 homeowners without relief.
“If we don’t get any more funding, then we stop (buying the homes),” Brenner said. “We’ll have to keep applying … it’s very competitive.”
Many landslide victims had to move out of their houses because extensive damage created unsafe conditions. But they had to maintain ownership of the properties to qualify for federal funds.
So some people have been paying two mortgages for nearly four years. And some of them now might not get any compensation for holding onto those properties
Brenner told the council Monday that he and city staff will continue to apply for additional funding to help Catron and others hurt by the landslides.
Purchased homes will be demolished and the land left as open space. But each house first must be appraised and cleared of hazardous materials.
“If you drive up Broadmoor Bluffs Drive, you’ll see three houses in varying stages of disassembly,” Brenner said.
Said Catron: “When you can see three houses directly above yours being taken down, you know your house is worth zero.”
Catron paid $403,671 for his home in mid-2001, El Paso County property records show.
Property values in the neighborhood have skyrocketed in recent years, Catron said, but he would have been fortunate to get 70 percent of the home’s 2015 appraised value — about $478,000 — from FEMA.
He said he considers himself lucky because his home is still livable, but he doesn’t know how long that will last. Particularly heavy rains could trigger more landslides. In the meantime, selling the house isn’t an option.
“We’ll go somewhere to live, obviously. We’ll be somewhere,” he said.
“Nobody’s going to pay you good money for a house that’s eventually going to slide down the hill.”