Hurricane Harvey delivered an unprecedented hit to Houston in terms of cost of damage and rain totals.
But another knock out blow to about 1,600 residents is potentially coming after the storm and from a fellow man – the city’s Public Works Department, to be exact.
For many residents whose homes flooded, repairs to their battered properties are already underway.
However, the city might be throwing a wrench into those plans, because, according to the standard procedure, severely flooded homes may be declared “substantially damaged,” meaning repairs must include raising the home off the ground.
Costing about $150,000 to complete, the repair may make some homeowners rethink their plans to stay.
“The expense is tremendous,” Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen, who represents Meyerland, Braeswood Place and other affected neighborhoods, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. “It’s difficult, but there are going to be decisions that have to be made.”
Residents of neighborhoods, like Meyerland, are reportedly already working to raise their homes; some of these residents said they received grants to raise their flood-prone homes after the 2015 Tax Day and Memorial Day floods, with construction pending before Harvey.
Only homes built in Houston’s 100-year flood plain qualify for the designation of “substantially damaged,” but records show this currently includes a total of 30,523 structures across the city.
While 1,611 residents are said to be receiving such designations this month, officials say more could be notified later.
If a structure is declared “substantially damaged,” then the owner must prove they are code compliant when they apply for construction permits, which include qualification requirements for raising the home’s foundation.
Per the regulations, homes in the 100-year flood plain must be at least 12-inches off the ground, while those in the floodway must be at least 18-inches off the ground.
Officials say federal grants are available to some homeowners, which could help offset some of the costs of raising their home up to $30,000.
While homeowners can reportedly appeal the substantial designation to the city’s Floodplain Management Office, they must be able to prove their home is not substantially damaged; this means repairs must cost less than 50% of the home’s value.
For some residents, this could mean a buyout is their only hope for starting over after Harvey.