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King County’s Home Elevation Program: raising homes, lowering flood risks, building safer communities from King County DNRP on Vimeo.

What is the King County Flood Buyout and Elevation Program?

Fast Water: buyout
The King County Flood Buyout and Elevation Program involves two approaches to reducing public health and safety risks to residents and property owners living in flood hazard areas of unincorporated King County.

Buyouts involve the voluntary sale to King County of flood-prone properties and structures. Buyouts are appropriate in areas of deep, fast-moving water, such as those located in the floodway, or those areas threatened by serious bank erosion. Buyouts provide a permanent solution to the risks and damages of repetitive flooding and significantly reduce the public costs associated with county, state and federal agencies' emergency response actions, including evacuations, providing emergency shelters, temporary housing, debris removal and repairs to damaged structures. Buyouts provide the added benefits of improved flood storage and conveyance, and the creation of permanent open space.

Elevation involves assisting property owners with the costs of raising the finished floor of a home above the 100-year elevation, substantially reducing the threat of future damage. This allows the residents to remain on the property, and preserves existing local housing. Elevation projects are more appropriate in areas that experience slower moving floodwaters. Both programs only involve properties where the owner has previously agreed to participate in the program. No condemnation procedures are used to implement this program.

Basic steps in the home buyout process:

Slow water: elevation
  1. First an independent appraisal is performed at King County's expense to establish the basis for the property's fair market value.
  2. Once the property owner and King County agree on the purchase price, the real estate closing process takes place.
  3. King County pays for all closing costs.
  4. Once the home is purchased, and the homeowner moves out, King County removes the structure.
  5. The property is then designated as permanent open space.

Basic steps in elevating a building:

  1. Professionals disconnect all utilities.
  2. A professional house mover is hired to disconnect the house from existing foundation, jack it up to new height, and provide a temporary foundation.
  3. Temporarily reconnect the utilities so the house is livable while foundation work is done.
  4. A temporary access staircase is built to meet the new height of the structure.
  5. A permanent, new foundation is constructed.
  6. The house mover lowers the house onto the new foundation and connects the anchor bolts.
  7. Utilities are permanently reconnected.
  8. A new, permanent access staircase and landing are built.

The brochure Elevating Structures to Reduce Flood Damages: Guidelines for Property Owners provides more detailed information on the home elevation process.

How much do these projects cost and where does the money come from?

Purchase of floodplain properties at fair market value is extremely expensive, given today's real estate market. Therefore, buyouts are targeted for neighborhoods where (1) there is significant risk due to fast-moving floodwaters, channel migration, or bank erosion, and (2) where there is the added public benefit of open space and wildlife or fisheries habitat.

Flooded House

Elevations typically cost about $200,000 per structure, depending upon the foundation. King County has traditionally relied on federal and state grant opportunities to fund the program. A small amount is available annually across the State of Washington from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a competitive basis. Additional funds become available after a presidential disaster declaration, such as those that occurred as a result of the December 2006 and January 2009 floods. With its formation in 2007, the King County Flood Control District also provides funding for the flood buyout and home elevation program.

Who is eligible to participate in the program?

In general, any structure located in a flood-prone area of unincorporated King County may be eligible for these programs. Structures covered by flood insurance with a history of repetitive flooding and those properties identified as part of a project in the Flood Hazard Management Plan will be more likely to be given priority for available program and grant funds.

In the past, there have been more property owners interested in selling or elevating than funds available. King County maintains a list of property owners interested in participating in the program, so that potential neighborhood projects are already identified when a funding opportunity becomes available.

Did you know all  properties in unincorporated King County are eligible for flood insurance?

Whether or not you are located in a mapped floodplain. Homeowners and renters insurance is available. You can get more information three ways:

  1. Call your insurance agent for more information
  2. Visit the National Flood Insurance Program's website, (external link) or
  3. Call their toll free number 1-888-CALL-FLOOD, x 445.

What other programs are available to residents?

Listed below are programs to help you elevate your home. Note that most of these programs only become available after a major flood event.

    Increased Cost of compliance

    Ask your insurance agent about "Increased Cost of Compliance" insurance coverage. This coverage, which is included in all flood insurance policies, allows payment of up to an additional $30,000 to cover compliance with local ordinances affecting repair or reconstruction involving elevation, floodproofing, relocation or demolition of a structure, after a direct loss caused by a flood. King County must determine your home has been substantially damaged (damages exceeding 50% of the value of the structure) and provide you with a letter verifying the damages.

    Small Business Association loans

    After a presidentially declared disaster, small business association (SBA) loans become available to qualified property owners. If you are approved for an SBA loan, you may be eligible for up to an additional 20 percent of your loan amount for use in hazard mitigation projects, such as home elevations. For more information, visit: the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) (external links).

Contact us:

For questions about the King County Flood Buyout and Elevation Program, please contact Ken Zweig, Project/Program Manger, River and Floodplain Management Section.