Houston will propose tougher floodplain rules, allow FEMA trailers

Miya Shay Image
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Houston mayor may allow FEMA trailers within city limits
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is announcing a new proposal that would affect how new homes are built in the city.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The future of Houston home building could look vastly different, if a proposal by Mayor Sylvester Turner makes it through city council in the coming months.

"The aim is to be transformational, to build a city that will be stronger and more resilient," the mayor said during a regular city council meeting on Wednesday. "So we're not going to be talking about 100-year floodplain anymore, the aim is to meeting the requirements in 500-year floodplain."

The central point of the sweeping proposal would require all future homes in Houston to be built at least two feet above the 500-year floodplain. In addition, new homes would be required to have adequate water retention, whether in the form of rain barrels, small pond, or underground piping. The idea is to curb runoff during massive rainfall.

"People that got flooded are scared, I get it, I flooded back in Allison myself," said builder Brian Silver, owner of B.A.S. Concepts, a local home building company.

"After Tropical Storm Allison, they took a lot of surveys and then made adjustments. I think we need to do that again and see what the date shows us," remarked Silver, who said his initial view of the proposed changes is a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn't take into account the differences in Houston neighborhoods.

The Greater Houston Builders Association, which represents builders in the area, refused comment on the proposed changes, citing the need to evaluate the proposal.

Mayor Turner says he expects to bring the proposed changes to city council in February, and hold several stakeholder meetings. Whatever the resulting changes that actually pass are not expected to be implemented until the end of the year.

Silver says new construction will certainly cost more as a result.

"Roughly speaking, for every six-inch increment, it's about $5,000 on a home. So for an average home, you're talking about $10,000."

Turner and other council members point out any cost in the beginning of the project to build high would be much less than the cost of fixing flood damage.

Beside the major building code changes, Turner also said he is prepared to bring an ordinance to city council next week to allow for the placement of trailers, container homes, and other temporary structures on people's property as they rebuild.

"They are not intended to be permanent at all, but they are intended to provide some temporary relief," said Turner.

If passed by city council, homeowners would be allowed to place a temporary trailer on their property for six months, with another possible six-month extension.

"I would like to have stayed close to the house," said Georgia Avalos, who flooded during Hurricane Harvey. However, now that she has rebuilt, she does not want permanent trailers in her neighborhood.

"I think it would be nice, (to have trailers) temporarily, until they fix everything," Avalos said.

A taskforce will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss the proposal. You can see an interactive floodplain tool provided by the county here.