Harris County has received its first wave of funding to begin the purchase of homes and properties flooded during Hurricane Harvey. An unknown number of those properties, out of 169 county-wide, are in the White Oak Bayou and tributary flood plains.
A map provided with a press release from Harris County Flood Control District shows homes in Inwood, Independence Heights and along Brickhouse Gully near 290 as eligible for buyout. Most of the buyout homes in Harris County are along the San Jacinto River and Cypress Creek.
“This is just the first of what we believe will be multiple allotments of funding,” said Karen Hastings from HCFCD in an email to The Leader. “Individual notification letters to property owners for this first allotment will be sent out once Harris County Commissioners Court has approved accepting the grant allotment and the necessary local matching funds. This action could happen as early as the next Commissioners Court meeting on June 12.”
Once Commissioners Court approves the funding, the time until closing could be anywhere from four weeks to four months, depending on the needs of the property owner, Hastings said.
She said the map was intentionally vague to respect homeowner privacy.
More information from the HCFCD press release:
Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August 2017, the Harris County Flood Control District has been working with its many local, state, and federal partners to address the flood risk reduction needs of the county. This includes responding to and addressing volunteers for the Flood Control District Home Buyout Program by maintaining a Home Buyout Hotline, collecting information from thousands of home buyout volunteers, reviewing and identifying properties that meet the Flood Control District Home Buyout eligibility criteria, and submitting grant applications for funding to support home buyouts in response to Hurricane Harvey.
Home buyouts are used by the Flood Control District to reduce flood damages in areas hopelessly deep in the floodplain where structural projects to reduce flooding are not cost effective and/or beneficial. Since the Flood Control District’s voluntary buyout program began in 1985, more than 2,075 structures have been purchased with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants and more than 960 properties (with and without structures) have been purchased with local Flood Control District funds.
As announced by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Harris County will receive its first allocation of FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funds in response to Hurricane Harvey. Twenty-five million six hundred thousand dollars are estimated to be received out of the total $163.5 million that the Flood Control District requested for home buyouts through HMGP. The Flood Control District will be able to purchase approximately 169 homes with $8.6 million required local matching funds and the $25.6 million in HMGP funds. Additional funding allocations from the same grant application are expected later this year.
In April 2018, the Flood Control District submitted a grant application to Texas Division of Emergency Management and FEMA to request funding through the HMGP. This grant application included approximately 1,000 homes for potential home buyout (totaling approximately $163.5 million in federal funding requests to the State). To utilize the new HGMP funding, the Harris County Commissioners Court must first authorize a local funding match of $54.5 million, or 25 percent of the total amount needed (approximately $218 million total) to support purchasing the proposed 1,000 homes. Homes do flood because people have a plumbing issue causing pies to leak, but disasters like this are beyond the homeowner’s control.
The first funding allocation of $25.6 million will support the purchase of approximately 169 homes dispersed throughout the county. These homes were initially selected because they meet the Flood Control District Home Buyout Program eligibility criteria, and these homes were prioritized because they have been designated as “substantially damaged” by building code officials at the Harris County Engineering Department or the City of Houston’s Public Works & Engineering Department.
Once a property has received a “substantially damaged” designation, homeowners have limited options to bring homes back into compliance with current floodplain regulations, as a “substantially damaged” designation means the cost to repair the home is assumed to be equal to or more than 50 percent of the market value of the home itself.
The remaining funds requested by the Flood Control District in the April 2018 grant application are still under review by the Texas Division of Emergency Management for future authorization, and subsequent funding authorized by the Texas Division of Emergency Management will be used to purchase additional homes that were included in the April 2018 HMGP application.
“I recognize the determination of the residents of this county, and we are continuously working on our residents’ behalf to secure every avenue of federal, state, and even local funding available to move people out of harm’s way before the next storm or flooding event. This is just the first allotment of FEMA funding for home buyouts, and we are looking forward to the ability to do more work for our residents,” said County Judge Ed Emmett.
The Flood Control District’s Home Buyout Program is ongoing, and home owners may volunteer to be considered for the program at any time. The Flood Control District is continually reevaluating and reassessing the needs for home buyouts across the county as additional funding becomes available.
For more information about how to participate in a potential home buyout, please contact the Flood Control District at (713) 684-4020 or visit www.hcfcd.org/homebuyout.