Hurricane Harvey

Houston Homeowners Move Forward After Harvey, And Many Face Limited Options

“You take whatever money you can, make it livable, and move back in. Only to go through it again.”

Monica Augusta, 47, says this is the second time her home has been flooded.

Officials have estimated that Harvey’s floodwaters have destroyed 30,000 to 40,000 Houston homes. And as the city recovers, the people who lived in those homes are asking, “Now what?”

Monica Augusta lives in the neighborhood of Bellaire, in southwest Houston. The houses on her block are surrounded by what seems like a graveyard of flood-damaged mattresses, furniture, and personal items.

This is the second time her home has flooded, and she said it doesn’t get any easier.

“It feels like everyone I talk to, and the more questions I ask, and different answers I get, the more overwhelmed and confused I feel,” she said. “I don’t want to go through this again. A single mom with two kids and two dogs. I can’t go through it again. But, when you have a mortgage that’s already overwhelming, how do you even begin to think of adding to that mortgage?”

Many people around Houston are facing that same exact dilemma, and are reaching out to people like Sam Craven.

Craven is the co-founder of Senna House Buyers, in the Heights. Since Harvey, he said he’s been having seven appointments a day; and has racked up over 200 miles on his car within three days, just to get to them.

Sam Craven, 32, drives to multiple Senna House Buyers’ clients a day, all across Houston.

“Most of the people that I’ve met with have been in the hardest hit areas; the ones that have been hit multiple times. And so, they’ve kind of been through it before,” said Craven.

“We have so many people calling us right now, who don’t even know what the next step is. From people calling us saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know how to dry out my house,’ to people calling us crying and upset because they’ve lost everything and they just want to move on and sell their home,” said Craven. “We find ourselves as an unfortunate subject matter expert, here.”

Craven said he’s also concerned about insurance adjusters potentially moving their attention from Harvey, to Irma.

Sam Craven meets with homeowner Monica Augusta, to calculate how much it would cost to fix damages from Harvey, and how much his business can offer her for the house.

And as flood victims continue to navigate through the process, Bellaire homeowner Monica Augusta said the cycle is overwhelming.

“You take whatever money you can, make it livable, and move back in. Only to go through it again. Because you don’t have any other options, and I’m feeling that,” she said. “So, part of me thinks, ‘How could you ever go through this more than two, three times. But then I realize you just don’t have options….So maybe we rent the rest of our lives? I don’t know. We’re going to an apartment in [West University Place]. But even that’s terrifying, because now you have rent and a mortgage.”

Over the years, Harris County has bought out more flooded homeowners than any county in the country. But the process can take years. And now, FEMA officials are telling the Houston Chronicle they’re trying to find ways to speed up the process, so flooded homeowners can consider buyouts instead of rebuilding.

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