Houston Adopts New Building Rules for the City’s Floodplains

Flooding in HoustonMore than six months after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, construction crews are still working hard to aid in Houston’s recovery effort. Now, the Houston City Council has taken its first major regulatory action to prevent major weather events from causing similar devastation in the future.

In early April, the council voted to approve new floodplain regulations following a contentious three-hour debate. The new regulations, which were first proposed by Mayor Sylvester Turner, require homes built in the city’s 100 and 500-year floodplains to be elevated at least two feet above the ground. Current regulations apply only to Houston’s 100-year floodplains, and require homes to be elevated one foot above the ground.

Mayor Turner called the decision a “defining moment” for the city that could save lives and make Houston stronger and more resilient in the event of future flooding events. But despite the Mayor’s praise, some city council members expressed concerns that the new regulations would drive up construction costs and make it harder for homeowners to qualify for flood insurance.  Mayor Turner acknowledged these concerns in his address to the city council, but argued that they were outweighed by the need to take decisive action in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Harris County officials approved similar updates to their floodplain building regulations earlier this year. There, new homes built in neighborhoods that were developed prior to 2009 must also be constructed at least one foot above the ground, regardless of whether or not they’re located in a floodplain.

Houston’s new rules will go into effect on September 1, 2018.