Taxpayer funded program raises houses out of flood plain on stilts

(SBG San Antonio photo)

It's a new safety trend to protect houses vulnerable to repeated flooding: Raising the home high in the air on stilts, foundation and all.

But as News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila reports, millions of your tax dollars are being used to lift those houses out of the flood plain.

Isaac and Carmen Garcia's home in Seguin has flooded five times.

“The biggest one was in 1998, we had a lot of water then. Almost nine feet of water on the first floor," Isaac says.

So the couple decided to do something radical: They had their home raised almost 17 ft. in the air, where it sits on reinforced concrete pillars.

“We thought it was impossible for them, foundation and all went up. I mean these guys worked their you-know-what’s off," says Isaac.

A special grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid for the entire $200,000 project. In all, FEMA paid $12-million to elevate 69 homes along the Guadalupe River in Seguin.

The Garcia's saved about $4,000 on their insurance now that they are above the flood plain. And the peace of mind is priceless.

"The main thing is the tranquility of knowing that we are up in the air and it doesn't matter if the water comes by or whatever," says Carmen Garcia.

However, there was the problem of climbing all those stairs. Carmen has had knee surgery. So the Garcia's spent their own money to build an elevator that goes all the way to the top.

The Texas Water Development Board administers the FEMA home elevation grants.

It says it has spent about $100-million lifting houses throughout Texas over the last five years of the program.

There's now a waiting list, including homeowners in Houston who want to protect their houses after Hurricane Harvey.

Guadalupe County officials say spending tax dollars this way benefits everyone's insurance rates and property values.

They plan to have all their homes completed by the end of this year.

“It's worth it, even if you pay for it yourself," Carmen Garcia says.

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