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Part 1: Historical Negligence Runs Rampant in Houston Home Building Regulations

In America, the relationships amongst governments, businesses, and individual citizens are all supposed to be “give and take.” People vote for government officials and put their money in businesses. Businesses follow government regulations and provide goods for citizens. The government protects citizens and takes money from businesses. However, the housing regulations in Harris County seemed to be lopsided when it comes to the “give and take” dynamics.

The Government Has Not Appropriately Regulated Reservoir Housing Developments

Various governments have acted negligently regarding the housing regulations of Houston. These negligent actions were performed by governments on the city, county, and federal levels. Federally, the U.S. Army Corps bought the land for the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. They bought almost all of the land that was denoted as part of the reservoirs, but they left a chunk of 8,000 acres, which ended up being bought by others. 

Regardless of the reason why the federal government chose to not purchase all of the land that was denoted as “in the reservoir,” the U.S. Army Corps should have requested other federal government powers to disallow any party from building developments on reservoir land.

On the city and county levels, the negligence gets worse.

The Harris County judge has gone on record accusing the city of Houston of abusing their regulatory power by allowing developments to be built within reservoir zones. Houston officials have not denied these claims (only called them “outrageous”) and have declared that Harris County is to blame for the developments as well. However, both parties ultimately blame Congress for not giving the U.S. Army Corps funding for research into the anticipated effects of the reservoir on new housing developments.

While forcing Congress to be the scape goat for the Harvey damages may seem like a good idea to county and city officials, the story barely holds up. The county officials are blaming Congress for not allowing U.S. Army Corps to “test the effects of building homes within a reservoir.” Essentially, the officials are saying they shouldn’t be responsible for allowing housing to be built within reservoirs because Congress did not provide proof that it was a bad idea.

There are two main issues with this argument:

  • If county and city officials were not sure that building homes in a reservoir was a good idea because they needed definitive evidence that it was not, why didn’t they conduct research on their own to determine if it was safe?
  • If regional officials were waiting on Congress to test the stability of building homes in the reservoirs, why did they forgo safety concerns and build without Congress testing? Shouldn’t this be considered negligence?

In short, various governments are pointing fingers at other governments for the debacle. In reality, it seems that each government has had a part to play in the development of the homes that reside within the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs. However, none of these agencies have taken responsibility for their part in this process, and the only ones who are truly hurting are the citizens living in the reservoirs whose homes were filled with water.