<div class="byline"><b>By Nassim Benchaabane <\/b>St. Louis Post-Dispatch<\/div>\nUNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. \u2014 Officials here are on the verge of applying for an estimated $40 million in federal cash to buy out hundreds of homes along the River Des Peres ravaged by flooding in late July.\n\nThe city was writing a letter on Friday to the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency asking for state and federal funding to buy homes condemned because of flood damage, demolish the structures and turn the land into parks, forests and fields. University City officials said they hope to offer the buyouts, which are voluntary, to about 300 homeowners.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s really to get as many residents as we can out of harm\u2019s way,\u201d University City Manager Greg Rose said in a recent interview.\n\nCities across the region condemned hundreds of houses and apartments after July\u2019s devastating floods, and officials and residents are still working to find new housing, repair flooded homes and recover. But University City, bisected by the River Des Peres, was perhaps the hardest hit.\n\nMany residents here now say they\u2019d greet a buyout offer with relief, as long as they get a fair price.\n\n\u201cI think it will be better for everybody,\u201d said Reggie Johnson, 55, whose family has lived on Mona Drive for 52 years.\n\nJohnson, his brother and nephew live there and care for their mother, who has dementia. Their father and grandfather passed away in the home. Johnson, a flight attendant, has filled the home with memorabilia from his trips abroad. The front and back have lush gardens. Their elderly neighbors have been lifelong friends. Leaving is going to hurt.\n\n\u201cIt has a lot of sentimental value,\u201d Johnson said, standing outside a front door with an orange condemnation order. \u201cBut after this last big flood, we\u2019re over it.\u201d\n\nThe buyout would be one of two major efforts officials hope will help save people from future flooding.\n\nThe second project seeks $10 million in federal funding to expedite construction of an 8-acre water basin in Overland that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says could help reduce River Des Peres flooding.\n\nThere is no guarantee that the city will get the money for either project. Funding is often limited, leaving it unlikely state and federal officials would approve a buyout of hundreds of homes at once. The city is talking with state officials now to gauge how many homes qualify and how much money is available.\n\n\u201cThis doesn\u2019t, by any stretch, mean that this is a done deal,\u201d said John Wagner, director of planning for the city.\n\nAnd if the state greenlights the idea, University City would have to detail exactly what a buyout would entail in a formal application for the federal dollars later this year, and likely provide a 35% match, which could be millions of dollars.