Energy & Environment

Report Says Houston Can Learn From Floodplain Buyout Programs In Other Cities

The report compares Harris County’s approach to a similar program in North Carolina

A neighborhood street near the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs is seen inundated with floodwaters after Hurricane Harvey

A new report says government buyouts of flood-prone homes could move faster if more local money was available.

Harris County’s buyout program is the biggest in the country, the report from Rice University notes, but it relies mostly on slow-moving federal money. The report looked at how officials managed to speed up the process in Charlotte (North Carolina) in part by created new local fees. 

“We’re able to buy properties immediately after a flood, versus if we relied on federal funding, usually that doesn’t happen until years afterwards,” said Dave Canaan, Water & Land Resources Director for ​Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte.

Still, experts cautioned that the success of buyout programs shouldn’t be judged solely on speed.

Christof Spieler, with the Greater Houston Flood Mitigation Consortium, said officials have to make sure buyouts don’t create new housing problems.

“If the government is buying out your home for the appraised value of that home, if you’re living in an old home that may not be in good condition, you may not be able to afford a place to live for that amount of money,” he said.

The Rice report notes that Harris County officials have committed to more local funding for buyouts since Harvey, but it cautions that those commitments might only be temporary.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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