Houston and surrounding areas are still working hard to recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey. At the beginning of this year, Mayor Sylvester Turner proposed tightening rules on new development in Houston. “We have had floods in each of the last three years, with Harvey being the worst. There will be other epic rainstorms, and they probably will arrive a lot sooner than 100 years or 500 years from now,” Turner told City Council. “As we build back from the damage to existing homes, we have to build forward to prevent future homes from flooding.”
Flood control is crucial to protect Houston’s infrastructure and residents. In February, HAR’s Governmental Affairs team attended the Special-Called Joint TTI and Regulatory & Neighborhood Affairs Council Committee meeting and the regular Houston City Council meeting. These meetings went into detail on the proposed changes to Chapter 19, the Floodplain Ordinance. The most important changes to the ordinance would require that all new buildings in 100 year and 500 year floodplains be elevated an additional 12 to 24 inches to help ensure these structures are not flooded.
When there are proposed changes to local ordinances, the city government solicits comments from the public to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. To that end, on March 5, Ed Wolff, HAR’s Governmental Affairs Advisory Group Co-Chair, and the Governmental Affairs staff submitted formal comments to Carol Haddock, Director of the Public Works and Engineering Department, to Stephen Costello, Chief Resiliency Officer, and to Houston City Council. Our concerns are the timeline that these sweeping changes are being made and the lack of data to show that they are necessary. Once all comments are submitted and reviewed, the proposed changes to the Chapter 19 ordinance will go before the Houston City Council for a vote scheduled for March 21.
We will be closely following this issue and meeting with members of City Council and Public Works and Engineering to ensure the changes are in the best interest of the community and the real estate industry.
To read the current Chapter 19 ordinance, visit www.houston.tx.gov/codes/. If you have any questions regarding this matter, please feel free to contact the Governmental Affairs department at (713) 629-1900 ext. 269.