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Rice Students Win Flood Policy Contest For Multi-Home Buyout Idea

An annual “Houston Centered Policy Challenge” focused on flooding in Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood

Allison Lee
Debris piled in front of a home in Houston’s Meyerland neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey. The homeowners said their house has flooded three times.

Since Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast about six months ago, officials in the Houston area have been pursuing ways to remove houses from flood-prone areas.

But how do you buy out homes without splitting up communities?

A team of Rice University students sought to answer that question in a recent flood policy contest. The judges said they might be onto something.

In the contest, students looked for ways to deal with the repeated flooding that's devastated Houston's Meyerland neighborhood.

Connor Rothschild and his teammate Sapna Suresh won for their idea to give more money to neighbors if their homes are bought out together.

"We would offer kind of like a flat subsidy on top of how much their home would originally be bought out for," Rothschild explained. "So if my house is going to be bought out for $100,000, and my neighbor's would be bought out for $110,000 if we did it independently, if we go into this together, we each receive an extra – just as an example – $20,000."

Some have worried buyouts could splinter Meyerland's close-knit Jewish community. The students' idea encourages residents to make buyout decisions in a more collective manner, rather than homes disappearing one at a time.

Rothschild said policymakers should be thinking more about these kind of community-based solutions to reduce flood risks.

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