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Low-Income Housing Report Criticizes Houston’s New Floodplain Regulations

The changes to Houston’s Chapter 19 floodplain ordinance went into effect on Sep. 1

Many homeowners in Houston's Kashmere Gardens community are still rebuilding after Harvey.
Florian Martin/Houston Public Media
Many homeowners in Houston’s Kashmere Gardens community are still rebuilding after Harvey.


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Houston's revised floodplain ordinance took effect this past weekend.

A new report by Austin-based advocacy group Texas Housers says it adversely affects low-income communities.

Under the new regulations, new buildings in the 500-year floodplain must be elevated at least two feet above the floodplain. They also affect current residents who are rebuilding homes that were more than 50 percent damaged during Harvey.

J.T. Harechmak, who authored the Texas Housers report, said poor residents can't afford to raise their homes and there are other things the city should have done.

"We would like to see them fund those stormwater systems to prevent flooding in those neighborhoods that have been looked over and underfunded," he said. "We would like to see them provide grants to low-income households in neighborhoods that want to stay, that want to rebuild."

According to the reports says builders typically quote about $75 per square foot to raise a home.

Harechmak is also concerned that the ordinance discourages businesses to invest in low-income areas where they're already underrepresented.

In a story we published last week, Keith Downey, Super Neighborhood president of Kashmere Gardens, a low-income community in northeast Houston, had the same concerns about affordability.

"You're talking about an underserved community," he said. "You cannot ask money from people that you're trying to help. They don't have it."

In an email, mayoral spokesman Alan Bernstein said, "The cost of not building past buildings higher has been devastating for low-income communities and all other kinds of communities in Houston. Building future buildings higher will save money because property won't be devastated. It will also save lives, whose costs are incalculably high."