Houston Agency Proposes New Floodplain Standards
In response to the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, Houston's Department of Public Works has proposed that new structures in the 100-year and 500-year floodplains be built two feet above the levels of the 500-year floodplains.
The report that led to this conclusion, released in March, indicated that current floodplain regulations, which require that structures be one foot above the 100-year flood elevation, weren’t effective. Out of regulation-compliant homes in Houston, 38 percent flooded. As for the minimally regulated 500-year floodplain, 33 percent of homes flooded.
According to the Engineering News-Record, the analysis found that 19 percent of the structures outside of the floodplains were also damaged. If all of Houston’s homes had been built with the 2-foot rule in mind, 84 percent of the homes that flooded during Hurricane Harvey would have been spared.
Costs to bring structures up to the standard would range from $10,000 to $32,000 per structure, resulting in some pushback from fear of an increase in housing costs. Shell Oil executive Marvin Odum noted that with the new ordinance, the total cost of a 1,500-square-foot house would increase by up to $10,000.
Work on public assets, such as fire stations and libraries, will have to wait for at least five years, as Houston has had to postpone these projects to address repairs related to Harvey. The Federal Emergency Management Agency does cover 90 percent of post-disaster recovery, but local governments must pay up front and wait for FEMA reimbursement.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria together caused losses amounting to $215 billion, resulting in the most expensive hurricane season on record nationwide.
If approved, the new ordinance will go into effect Sept. 1.