HOUSTON, TX — The Houston City Council has approved new regulations to the city’s building code will affect future projects that are built in the 500 year flood plain.
Mayor Sylvester Turner said the City Council’s approval of his flood protection reform proposals was a major step forward for protecting lives and property in any future Houston floods. He also said the vote will send a strong signal to the nation about how the city plans for its future.
"It is a positive day and a defining moment for Houston. We are being transformational, becoming a more resilient city, and that means doing business in a way we have not done before," Turner remarked.
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The new regulations come nearly eight months after Hurricane Harvey caused widespread flooding to hundreds of buildings in downtown Houston, and in communities in Greater Houston.
The new regulation, which passed with a 9-7 vote, will require new construction to be built with a two foot elevation above the 500 year flood plain — land predicted to flood during a once-every-500-years storm (17-19 inches of rain in 24 hours).
Thank you to the @HoustonTx City Council for approving the flood protection reforms I proposed in January. This is a signature moment for our city; a transformative move to save lives, make Houston more resilient and preserve the factors that attract newcomers. #HurricaneHarvey— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) April" class="redactor-linkify-object">https://twitter.com/SylvesterT… 4, 2018
The changes to the city regulations began in January when the council began examining ways to toughen the rules for construction in the floodplain after the devastation from Hurricane Harvey.
The soon-to-expire standard was set at one foot above the 100-year flood plain, land that is predicted to flood during a once-every-100-years (13-14 inches of rain in 24 hours).
Turner said the city will now shift to developing ordinance changes this year for areas outside the flood plain and construction of infrastructure and drainage projects.
Roy Wright, FEMA’s deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation, wrote to the mayor, "For the nation to be more resilient, many communities will take these forward-leaning steps. We will be looking to Houston to lead the nation in its resilience and capacity to shape policies that keep citizens safe through all hazards."
Turner acknowledged that some local business interests opposed today’s action with the argument that new construction will cost more.
However, Turner added that saving lives is worth the extra cost, and the reforms will assure new residents and businesses that Houston is more prepared for the next storms.
"Unless we take constructive steps to mitigate the risk of flooding, why would business owners want to make a significant investment inside the city of Houston? They at least want to see us doing things that will protect them and their investment," he said. "We are not going to put profit over the lives of people."
Image: HOUSTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 03: People look at a flooded section of US-90 on September 3, 2017 in Houston, Texas. A week after Hurricane Harvey hit Southern Texas, residents are beginning the long process of recovering from the storm. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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