In recent weeks, the city of Houston has proposed ways to prevent flooding by tightening the zoning laws within Houston's floodplain. On the surface, that makes sense. The floodplain is obviously where the city's attention should be focused...unless most of the flooding occurs outside the floodplain. A report from the Houston Chronicle may have revealed the truth: that the city needs to re-evaluate it's entire strategy regarding flood prevention.
The story reveals that almost 75 percent of residential structures flooded by Harvey were outside the 100-year floodplain.
It's not a fluke, either. The report covers flooding data from Tropical Storm Allison, the Memorial Day floods from 2015, and the Tax Day floods from 2016. It finds that over half of the homes flooded in 2016 were outside the floodplain, and in 2015 it was 33 percent. The floods are less and less contained to the floodplains, and thousands are paying the price.
The floodplain is federally-regulated land, forcing homeowners to pay high premiums for flood insurance. It ensures that people aren't left destitute after a storm like Harvey.
Sam Brody, a Texas A&M University professor, studies urban flooding and said "We really need to throw out the whole thing and re-do it, rethink it. We just need to start again."
About Houston's Floodplain Maps
Our floodplain maps are designed by the city of Houston and approved by FEMA. Put simply, the floodplain marks the areas of land that have a 1 percent chance of flooding on a yearly basis. These maps, if accurate, guide development decisions and ensure that homeowners are aware if their homes are in a high-risk flooding area.
If they're inaccurate, however, the floodplain maps leave thousands unaware of the risks they're facing.
Some city officials want to expand 100-year floodplain regulations to the 500-year floodplain (which includes any land that has a .2 percent chance of flooding in a given year). However, the data suggests that this still wouldn't have helped over 100,000 homes damaged by Harvey that weren't in any floodplain designation.
Any solution that focuses on floodplains still won't help hundreds of thousands of people who are in areas that, on paper, have nearly no chance of flooding...yet have flooded every year for the past three years. We recommend that you read the report here.
We Deserved Better Than This
Inaccurate floodplain designation isn't just about paperwork or bureaucracy. People who have spent their whole lives in Houston, goodpeople, are losing everything they have because officials are focusing on an outdated model. They're left with very few options; some of them can't even afford to move. Others have poured tens of thousands into their home from a prior flood, only to see all of their hard work destroyed in an instant a year later.
If none of this feels right to you, it's because it isn't. Houston deserves better than to have everything stripped away from them on an annual basis, or to feel like they have to face every hurricane season with fear for their lives. Our firm believes that with all our heart--it's why we fight to help people rebuild when disaster strikes.
Call (888) 400-2101 if you need help too.