Several Panama City homeowners hand the keys to their home over to the city

First Home Closing With Rebuild Florida
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:44 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It’s a bittersweet day for Linda York, she’s officially selling the house she’s owned since 2002.

“This is the key that I am giving back to the city that they can bury on my property,” said York.

York is selling her home on Cincinnati Avenue in Panama City, but it’s not a new family coming in, she’s selling it to the city, where it will eventually be destroyed.

“I got tired of flooding and having to re-do the house, my flower beds, my flowers, my gardens,” said York. “I got yard of the month. It was beautiful, and I just didn’t have it in me anymore.”

She says her house has flooded four separate times. Living in a neighborhood that constantly floods is why the city of Panama City is buying it. As part of its buyout program, where the city purchases the homes, tears them down and creates a green space, and retention pond.

“If I had my preference, I’d still like to be living there but being the way, it is I had to. I miss my home,” said York.

She’s the first person in the neighborhood to close on a home for the program, her neighbor, Alejandro Rodriguez is the second. It was a rental house he owned for several years.

“So, for 3 times I had to cut the sheetrock and waterproof it,” said Rodriguez.

“It was a constant every time it rained or bad rainstorm I’d have to call them and say has the water reached your home yet and it was really really scary,” said Rodriguez.

The state gave the city five million dollars to purchase 21 homes in the area.

“The main thing is that it’s hope. A lot of people were a part of the program because they were hoping this would be a solution for them to get on to the next chapter of their life,” said Josh Street, a Panama City commissioner.

Cincinnati and Lake avenues are next to a current stormwater facility. Another reason for flooding in the area.

Commissioner Josh Street says it’s been a two-year process to get to this point, now, they’re negotiating with the other 19 homeowners.

“This gives us an opportunity to expand that stormwater facility a maybe you know hopefully be able to mitigate other flooding in other areas of the city too,” said Street.

York is staying in Bay County and is looking forward to her next home.

“I’m so excited. Very much. Everybody is,” said York.

City officials say this will be a multi-year process.