North Carolina program takes years to fix homes, wastes tax money, according to hurricane victims

Diane Wilson Image
Thursday, October 12, 2023
NC program taking years to fix homes damaged in hurricanes
Seven years after Hurricane Matthew destroyed North Carolina homes, homeowners who were promised help say the state continues to fail them.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Seven years after Hurricane Matthew destroyed North Carolina homes, homeowners who were promised help say the state continues to fail them.

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson has been investigating the problems with the state-run program ReBuild NC for years, despite the state making progress, Wilson continues to hear from homeowners fed up waiting for their completed home.

Fayetteville homeowner, Susan Darnell is one of those frustrated people.

"Wasted taxpayer's money, and that's exactly what it is. There's no sense of what ReBuild is doing." Darnell said the waiting game has taken a toll on her. "It's taken a toll on my health and made my health decline because I've had to worry and be frustrated by my house for seven years. Paying a mortgage on a house you can't live in."

When Hurricane Matthew damaged her Fayetteville home, she applied and was accepted into the state program called ReBuild NC. In 2021, ReBuild moved her out of her home so work could start. For more than two years, she stayed in a hotel -- the total cost of her stay ended up being more than $46,000.

In July of this year, ReBuild sent her a letter that stated that if work was done, she could move back home. She got the keys to her home and tried to move back in, but she said, "The work is not completed to what it needs to be. It's half done and they're just putting a patch on everything and letting it go."

SEE ALSO | 'I've never seen inside my house.' Hurricane survivors in state run program still waiting for home

Progress is being made by a state-run program that is meant to help hurricane victims get back into their once storm-damaged homes, but is it enough?

Her contract with ReBuild states they would do $55,000 worth of work.

Darnell is not alone in waiting for work to be completed. A ReBuild NC homeowner in Kinston reached out beyond frustrated after staying in a hotel for more than three years while he waits for contractors with ReBuild to finish his home.

A Hoke County homeowner also reached out waiting for work to start on her hurricane-damaged home. She refused to go to a hotel until ReBuild actually starts doing work.

When it comes to ReBuild NC, during our years of investigations we have shown you the progress made on several projects we brought to their attention. In 2022, ReBuild was completing an average of five homes in a month; now leaders tell us they complete about 50 homes each month.

However, for the thousands of homeowners still waiting for homes they can safely live in, they're skeptical ReBuild will ever complete work that makes this wait worth it.

SEE ALSO | 'It is so hard': State program continues to leave hurricane victims out of their homes

There are new details in a Troubleshooter investigation of a state program spending millions of taxpayer dollars.

"If I would have known what I knew seven years ago, I would have never entered the program to go through seven years of suffering and pain," Darnell said.

When it comes to Darnell's case, ReBuild said rehabilitation projects can be complex and this particular project has undergone six change orders. ReBuild expects the project to be completed in the next week.

As for the home in Kinston, ReBuild said it hopes to have the home completed by the end of the year. When it comes to the home in Hoke County, ReBuild says the homeowner is in contract and bid work stage and construction is expected to be completed within 115 calendar days.

Homeowner Recovery Program data as of Oct. 11, 2023:

  • 2,759 applicants in Step 1 (intake) through Step 6 (contract and bid work)
  • 1,466 families moved back into safer, more resilient homes.
  • 375 projects currently in the construction phase, including 334 homes with work already underway.