After Harvey, homeowners near the Addicks and Barker reservoirs could do nothing but watch as their homes flooded during the controlled releases from the two dams.
Officials pointed to flood maps and explained the consequences of the “extended continuous releases,” but many homeowners questioned why they didn’t know their homes were in a flood area.
Canyon Gate in Fort Bend County is one of those neighborhoods.
“When we purchased our home in Canyon Gate in 2005, I did not know that we were part of the Barker Reservoir,” homeowner Hugh Durlam, an engineer, said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
After Harvey, all 721 homes in Canyon Gate flooded from purposefully-released water out of the Barker Reservoir.
Not only do homeowners say they were kept in the dark about their homes being located in a flood pool, investors who purchased tax-exempt bonds from the Cinco Municipal Utility District (MUD) 8, which manages the neighborhood, say they were never warned of the flood risk in the disclosure statements provided during the purchase, either.
Fort Bend County officials, however, were aware of the risk because documents on their side included this warning since 1994:
“This subdivision is adjacent to Barker Reservoir and is subject to extended controlled inundation under the management of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” the text read.
Why, then, were homeowners and investors kept in the dark?
Investors who bought the bonds from the Cinco MUD 8 helped finance developers, who homeowners maintain built in the flood zone despite the risks; the tax-exempt bonds were sold beginning in 1996 to reimburse developers for their costs in installing infrastructure for the new development.
While officials knew of the flood risks, the developers behind Canyon Gate only mentioned flooding risks once over the course of nine years, only specifying the neighborhood was not in the 100-year floodplain.
This document was designed to protect investors — not homeowners.
Protection claims aside, it failed to protect anyone.
While not in the floodplain, the property is directly behind the Barker Reservoir – again, purposefully designed to allow for “extended controlled releases” of floodwaters after a major storm.
Affected parties claim this detail was never mentioned or examined by developers, making it appear as though the properties were safe.
Barbara Bisgaier, who once managed a firm providing financial advice to governments, said the prospectuses needed to include the reservoir under the “risk factors” section, especially since other risks were listed.
That said, since bonds are backed by property taxes, investors lose their money if homeowners can no longer pay their property taxes because their homes were destroyed, leaving both homeowners and investors scrambling after Harvey because of decisions made by a developer decades ago.
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