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Building Requirements Change in the Post-Harvey Era

Harris County Commissioners approve tougher building restrictions in the aftermath of one of the worst floods ever to hit the Upper Gulf Coast of Texas. The new requirements are part of a 14-point plan proposed by County Judge Ed Emmett in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

In response to the Harvey flood, the third “500-year flood” in the last 5 years, the Commissioners “unanimously approved” a new set of rules that would require buildings to be built higher than the 500-year floodplain versus the current “100 year” level and would require some homes to be elevated as high as 8 feet above grade in order to avoid future flood damage.

This move by the commissioners is the first major change to the Harris County building rules in over 20 years and comes at a time when FEMA monies are being used to “buy out homes” that have flooded several times over the last 3 years.

The new rules go into effect on January 1, 2018 and apply to the “unincorporated” areas of Harris County.

It should be noted that these rules do not apply to the 4th largest city in the US, Houston. The City officials are dealing with enormous devastation and studying what they will do to address the challenges of flooding in the 500-year floodplain for the waterways that drain through the Houston City proper from the surrounding suburbs.