Houston Changes Building Code In Response To Harvey

8 Replies

Houston Makes First Regulatory Response To Harvey Flooding

HOUSTON (Houston Chronicle) – City council agreed last week to require all new construction in the city's flood plains be built two feet above the projected water level in a 500-year storm.

  The new rules will take effect Sept. 1 and apply to all new buildings within the 500-year flood plain, which has a 0.2 percent chance of being inundated.

  Current regulations mandate that buildings be constructed one foot above the flood level in a less severe 100-year storm. They apply only within the 100-year floodplain, where properties are considered to have a 1 percent chance of being inundated in a given year.

  The unusually tight 9-7 vote is the city's first major regulatory response to the widespread flooding Hurricane Harvey unleashed last August. It also marks a shift away from the city's longtime aversion to constraining development. 
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Hey Jim,
I read this article the other day. What do you think about this for those in the RE market in general?
Will this effect the value of homes below the new mandated flood plain? Will homes built above the new flood plain be more attractive to buyers/investors X amount of years now?
I know these are hard to estimate. Just wanted to get your thoughts.

-Mike

Michael

Generally speaking, Buyers will want to avoid Flood areas, if possible. YES - I think there will be some short term impact on homes in Flood Plain areas. But over time people will get more comfortable or forget the impact Harvey had on the city.

I've seen some homes in New Orleans that were raised above the flood plain - Maybe 5-6 feet. Below are some I found in a google search, but some I've seen personally. It's strange looking - the house was raised 5-6 feet and they just built a steep ramp from street up to the garage which had also been raised. Maybe a better idea to leave the garage at street level.

https://tinyurl.com/ybkq3mb6 .  

Granted the New Orleans home were probably an extreme condition. If we are only looking at raising homes 1-2 feet, then the visual aberration will probably not be as extreme.  

512-633-3853

If the city of Houston forces people to raise all the properties two feet above the 500-year-flood level, then they can release the reservoir water into people's neighborhoods with a clear conscience!

@Collin Garbarino . I re-read the article. Says the city council will: 

"require all NEW CONSTRUCTION in the city's flood plains be built two feet above the projected water level in a 500-year storm. 

I would interpret that to mean new starts - NOT remodels or rebuilds of Flooded Homes but I'm certainly not the authority on Houston City Council or Houston Building Code. 

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Originally posted by @Jim Cummings :

@Collin Garbarino. I re-read the article. Says the city council will: 

"require all NEW CONSTRUCTION in the city's flood plains be built two feet above the projected water level in a 500-year storm. 

I would interpret that to mean new starts - NOT remodels or rebuilds of Flooded Homes but I'm certainly not the authority on Houston City Council or Houston Building Code. 

 Jim, the city of Houston has a rule about what percentage of value they allow you to remodel/rebuild based on flooding. I don't remember how exactly it works. They won't permit certain work after a while, which eventually forces a teardown/rebuild, which increases property values, which increases tax revenues.

Anyone out there remember how this rule works in Houston?

It's FEMA that requires any project where over 50% of the original value is added (repair or renovation) will require the property to be built in accordance with the current building regulations, including FEMA elevation requirements (based on base flood elevation). The only thing the city can do is to play with the 50% value number, which was often times done in New Orleans after Katrina to allow the property to be rebuilt without being forced to comply with the current building regulations (including elevation requirements).

The thing to keep in mind is that it's the value of the property minus the value of the lot that they're using. Lot values go up, and people are forced to raze and rebuild. Probably better for the longterm health of Houston, but it's tough to be stuck in that situation.

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