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Solving Houston’s Flooding Problem for Homeowners


High and dry?

Not Houston, where the city’s geography and urban planning turned flooding and water damage into a perpetual threat. As a result, it’s the United States’ most flooded city, according to a paper from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS). And in a case of piling on, while Houston, the country’s fourth-largest city, has land-use restrictions, it lacks a zoning ordinance code.

The upshot: the city’s behind the eight ball for future growing costs stemming from its structures, policies, and tactics of disaster recovery.

A long-term resilience plan, designed to adapt to the effects of shocks and stressors—including climate change and extreme weather events, called “Resilient Houston” was published in February by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience. The objective of the plan is to eradiate the floodway of habitable structures by 2030, by virtue create healthy and connected bayous, key to the resilience of the city. A buyout program that clicks on all cylinders; where property from private citizens is purchased by the government, is the only way to snuff out a destructive cycle and rebuild, according to the paper.

There are several good reasons for buyouts in the floodway, including the permanent relocation of families to safer areas, less prone to flooding. The wrinkle? Layering on the complexity and, possibly, stoking distrust of the government, the U.S. and Houston have a prolonged history of leveraging relocation and development to supplant and consolidate non-white communities.

It’s incumbent upon Houston to segue from a buyout program, swathed in opportunism within numerous agencies, to an integrated, scaled-up “buy-in/buyout” program, asserts the paper. A relocation strategy should be the program’s centerpiece, it continued. Instrumental is community engagement in and a thumbs up to relocation plans.  Consequently, strategic and managed retreat evolves into a flood reduction response and a vital cog in turning Houston’s goals of larger social, economic, and resilience into reality.

According to ValuePenguin, there’s a 26% chance of having their property flooded at some point during a 30-year span—the length of a typical mortgage--among those with homes in a 100-year floodplain.

The problem is only a small percentage of properties dotting a designated 100-year floodplain have flood insurance.

Driving home the point, so to speak, a number of motorists were stranded in their cars on roads in Houston and areas west of the city flooded one recent morning, according to Weather.

At least three motorists were stranded in Katy, Texas, west of Houston, according to a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy, reported KHOU-TV.

It’s certainly catching the attention of potential homebuyers in the Houston areas, who are that much focused on flood zones, especially after Harvey left more than 51 inches in the city last year, according to the Houston Chronicle. It caused about $150 billion to $180 billion damage, with homes and businesses demolished.

About Author: Chuck Green

Chuck Green has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and others covering various industries, including real estate, business and banking, technology, and sports.

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