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More Tybee homes being lifted thanks to FEMA grant

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 4:33 PM EDT
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - More houses that are prone to flooding on Tybee Island are on their way to catching a lift.

City leaders say they have gotten more money through a house lifting grant through FEMA. Twenty-two homes have been accepted for the grant so far.

This grant means homes will be raised 12 feet in the air. Tybee Island City Manager Shawn Gillen says doing this is part of the island’s overall effort to be more resilient to storm surge.

“We know the water is going to come in. We’re trying to get the structures out, mitigate the damage, let the water come in, go where it wants to go and then go out and then we’ll get back to business as usual,” Gillen said.

Gillen said five years ago the city applied for two of these grants through FEMA. About two years ago they were awarded one of them. 12 homes were approved for it. This home, on Lewis Avenue, was the first to go up.

“People seem to be happy with the end result,” Gillen said.

The city is now getting their second grant from FEMA. 49 homes qualify for it. However, the city only has the greenlight on 22 of them. Gillen says the other 27 are waiting for approval pending further “historic review.”

“Some of them will probably drop out once they figure what the cost is actually going to be, the logistics of moving out of your home, so there’s a lot to this,” Gillen said.

A tedious process, at best. One Marie Rodriguez is preparing for. Her home is one that was approved.

“What we’re working on next is finding a place for my mom to live since I found a place for myself to live and finding a contractor. Almost 5 years we’ve been waiting on this,” Rodriquez said.

Rodriguez says her home has had significant damage from past hurricanes.

“Hurricane Matthew took out my mom’s whole apartment. I actually stayed in Hurricane Irma thinking, ‘oh, it’ll just flood her apartment again’ and instead a storm surge took out the whole house. I would like to know that I won’t have to worry about that again,” Rodriquez said.

Gillen says FEMA covers 75 percent of the cost, the state covers 10 percent and then the homeowner pays 15 percent. The exact cost varies house to house.

“It all depends on your elevation, it all depends on the type of construction material, the size of the home. It can range anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000 or even more,” Gillen said.

Gillen says those who get it done will feel more at ease when the next hurricane barrels through.

“We’re just going to plow through and get as many of these homes lifted as possible.”

Gillen said because so many people are interested in this, they’re thinking about applying for a third grant in the future. There isn’t a set time, yet, for construction will get started on these homes.

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