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Deadline is near for some post-Hurricane Irma buyouts in the Keys

a man on a bicycle in an area of the Keys damaged by hurricane irma
Al Diaz/Miami Herald
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Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage throughout the Florida Keys.

Almost five years after Hurricane Irma crossed the Keys, local governments there still have millions to spend on voluntary buyouts.

And in the city of Marathon, a deadline is approaching — homeowners in the Middle Keys city have until June 15 to apply.

The city plans to demolish the homes it buys and use the space for pocket parks or stormwater treatment. It's also offering help for renters who live in buyout properties — up to $10,000 in expenses to move out of the county and up to $25,000 for moving within the Keys.

Monroe County also has a voluntary buyout program for unincorporated areas but doesn't have a deadline. Eight properties have been purchased so far and three of the eight were allowed to exceed the $750,000 state cap. The county considers the program part of a "managed retreat" adaptation to climate change.

Under the county's rules, rental homes are not eligible for the voluntary home buyouts.

Initially, properties in the program were valued at pre-storm prices. But since property values have actually risen in the Keys, even with storm damage, they can be purchased for post-storm value.

Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.