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Trying to Find Funding Sources for Amherst Sinking Homes Problem

By Joyce Kryszak

Amherst, NY – It may take an act of Congress to get money to pay for Amherst's sinking homes problem. That was the conclusion of some officials Wednesday at a meeting of state, federal and local representatives who met trying to find funding sources.

Amherst homeowners and town officials are looking for money -- enough to fill a growing hole. Officials say foundation repairs to at least a thousand sinking homes could reach upwards of $100 million.

Poor soils are the suspected culprit. But the state and the Federal Emergency Management Administration say the problem doesn't appear to qualify as a natural disaster. They said it may be necessary to create a whole new national program, like the National Flood Insurance Program, to address unique catastrophic situations, such as Amherst's. The Town's Building Commissioner agrees.

"What the National Flood Insurance Program does is if you take out a mortgage for $100,000, even though your house is worth $200,000, the federal government wanted to make sure that $100,000 was covered by insurance so they could recoup any losses they might incur," said Thomas Ketchum. "So, the same could be said about the soil subsidence situations."

But homeowners and officials Wednesday did not want to wait for an act of Congress to get money for the repairs and prevention measures. Amherst Task Force Chair Darlene Torbenson says they may have to cobble funds together.

"If we can get twenty thousand here, and two hundred thousand there, and a million here, however we have to get it, we're going to do that then administer those funds appropriately," said Torbenson.

The town has asked the representatives of the eleven agencies and offices that were present to send back ideas in 30 days of ways to creatively pay for the repairs.