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Money available to buy damaged Pennsylvania properties

Pennsylvania has received an additional $5.5 million in federal monies to help state officials turn parcels located north of Philadelphia frequently affected by floods into open space.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made the money available for property acquisition, which means that local communities can work with property owners to buy their land, then demolish any buildings damaged in a natural disaster that sit on the property.

It's all part of an effort to remove ruined structures that sit on flood-prone land and to diminish the impact that future storms can have on the region. Already, FEMA has announced that 60 structures with significant damage in three counties will be destroyed.

The funding, which comes from FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, is intended to give states and cities an incentive to do something with properties in flood-prone areas. The initial funding available is just a portion of an estimated $66 million expected to come to Pennsylvania to acquire properties damaged by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

Under the program, local officials apply to the state and outline their plans for property acquisition, assuring it meets all program regulations. FEMA then will review applications forwarded by the state to determine a project's eligibility and efficiency. Once FEMA approves a project, the process of acquiring a property can begin. The community then will own the parcel and remove any structures. The land will become open space, and future building will not be allowed.

Already, at least five dozen Pennsylvania applications have gotten the go-ahead to proceed. The projects are located in areas ranging from Columbia County to Bloomsburg to Exeter Township to Wyoming County.

Property owners with damaged buildings are not required to participate and should not experience any pressure from the state or other agency to sell their property. Participation is voluntary.

Source: LoanSafe.Org, "$5.5 Million Approved by FEMA for Additional Property Acquisitions for Flood Protection," Alex Ferreras, May 24, 2012

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