City of Austin continues purchasing Onion Creek homes

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by QUITA CULPEPPER / KVUE News

kvue.com

Posted on September 20, 2013 at 8:48 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 20 at 9:00 PM

AUSTIN -- The City of Austin launched a plan years ago to buy the homes along Onion Creek to try and keep people out of harm's way during flooding.

In 1998, flooding overwhelmed hundreds of homes Around Onion Creek in South Austin.

Many residents had to be evacuated. Some who didn't leave had to be rescued.
 
“We had up to 10 feet of water in some of the mobile homes there in the Onion Creek Park," said Mipa Vigil with the city’s Watershed Protection Department.
 
The City has spent about $26 million buying homes that sit in the 25 year flood plain close to Onion Creek.

Now those once busy neighborhoods are filled with empty, overgrown lots, with driveways and electrical equipment -- the only reminders houses once stood there.

The city tries to buy five to 10 houses a year.
 
The homes are all in Onion Creek Bend and Yarabee Forest neighborhoods near William Cannon and Pleasant Valley Drive.   
 
The City started buying out the properties back in 1998. Of the 483 homes that were reccomended to go, the city has so-far purchased 319.
 
City officials are working with the U.S. Corp of Engineers and say there are plans for the land.

“The Corp also has some money to do an eco-system restoration, so it's going to be a park,” Vigil said.
 
In years past, a federal grant helped buy a number of homes.
 
“We almost got about $8 million and we bought 114 homes,” Vigil said.  “So it gave us a lot of money in order to be doing a bigger buyout than we could be doing with city funds.”
 
There are still homes the city says it wants to buy and it can't. That's because they're no longer getting Federal money.
 
“If we receive federal funding we can finish in a matter of three years,” Vigil said.  “And without it, it might take a lot long because we need to look at other sources.”
 
Other homes can't be bought -- due to title issues. The City is working with the U.S. Corp of Engineers which has the power to use eminent domain to get those homes.
 

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