As thousands of Houstonians continue to try and rebuild their lives after the devastating floods of Hurricane Harvey, at least one housing developer is already making plans to build new homes in flood zones.
Meritage Homes announced it will launch a project of building 900 homes on the site of the abandoned Pine Crest golf course in northwest Houston.
While the plans were announced prior to the storm, many local political leaders and activists have spoken out about rampant development in light of the damage caused by the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.
Mayor Sylvester Turner has stated his office would examine any major development projects in the “post-Harvey era,” while Harris County Judge Ed Emmett has proposed a tightening in development regulations and additional taxes to install flood prevention measures.
Meritage did adapt some of their plans in the wake of Harvey. The company stated many of its homes will be in areas marked as a “500-year floodplain,” as opposed to the riskier “100-year floodplain.” Officials also stated the project would have a retention pond to take on much of the floodwaters, and the construction “will have zero negative impact on downstream flooding.”
The project would continue the trend of rampant development throughout Houston’s flood zones. A ProPublica/Texas Tribune investigation revealed more than 7,000 homes have been built in Harris County flood zones since 2010. Many of these homes, such as those that were flooded when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs, are in areas vulnerable to flooding.
Despite the need for a discussion on flood control measures and an examination of policies related to residential development, some experts state the city’s and county’s need for tax revenue will preclude them from putting the brakes on any housing development projects.
Jim Blackburn, an environmental law professor at Rice University, told Reuters News he doesn’t expect any significant changes when it comes to local regulation of such projects.
“There’s no indication that we’re going to do anything philosophically different,” said Blackburn. “With a few modifications, it’s business as usual.”