With a major flood occurring once every year for the past three years in a row, Houston and its homeowners have a difficult choices to make.
Flood control policies need to be reevaluated and strengthened, floodplain maps redrawn and the definition of a 100-year flood thrown out the window. These things are going to mean a change in the way Houston builds.
According to Reuters, over 3,000 people in the Houston area are seeking a buyout of their homes after repeated flooding. “I call the house my albatross. It just follows us; it’s hanging from our necks, pulling us down,” Houston homeowner Melinda Loshak, 61, said in an interview.
For years, Houston has operated under a policy of unchecked growth, which has been great for business, but many say also set the city up to be wrecked by flooding.
Officials like Harris County Judge Ed Emmett are asking for tighter regulations on development and to put tax money toward building the city’s flood defenses, but it won’t be easy to change “business as usual” in the Bayou City.
Even as people are being bought out of damaged homes, developers are building on land that flooded during Harvey. One plans to build 900 homes on land that used to be a golf course, and that flooded during the storm.
Residents contend building like that will only make things worse the next time the heavy rains come.
“That water now doesn’t have a place to go, and it has to go somewhere else – more likely into older neighborhoods that may or may not have flooded prior to this,” said Ed Browne, chairman of Citizens Against Flooding, in an interview.
The developer behind the golf course project says it will “have zero negative impact on downstream flooding”, claiming larger retention ponds will keep floodwaters out of homes.
People waiting on buyouts will have to see if the $800 million Texas requested from the federal government gets approved, and then wait months more to see any of the money.
Thousands of homes were built in the flood zone over the years and, according to Reuters, the people who own them are tired after repeated repairs. They don’t want to stay behind.
“I just would like it to be gone, because it’s so stressful and depressing to see the house and see the neighborhood and know that it’s just going to happen over and over again,” Melinda Loshak said in an interview.