Houston City Council adopts stricter building codes for future floodplain construction

HOUSTON - Houston City Council has been flooded with debate on whether they should strengthen building codes in the floodplain, and by a slim margin of 9 to 7, the new ordinance has passed.

"And we recognize in our city that we have to build a stronger, more resilient city," Mayor Sylvester Turner told reporters following the announcement.

The overall goal of the new regulations are to minimize flood risks in the future. After flooding during Harvey, the new ordinance will revise certain building codes and management of what is known as a 100-year floodplain, as well as a 500-year floodplain.

These new revisions are in anticipation of new FEMA flood insurance rate maps along with other updated data looking at annual rainfall estimates for the state of Texas, which will be published this year.

"When you are asking for new construction to be built higher where we're no longer guided by the 100-year floodplain, but guided by the 500-year, and building plus 2, of course that's going to generate a lot of conversation, as it should," Mayor Turner added.

New structures built in the floodplains must be elevated and much of what used to be the 100-year plain is becoming the 500-year floodplain. But forget 500 years!

In some places, homeowners experienced a so-called 500-year flood event in back-to-back years with the Tax Day Flood of 2016 and then the equally massive flood of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Not to mention the Memorial Day Flood of 2015.

And that's why this water-logged issue has led to such a heated debate down at city hall!

"We've only looked at 5,000 houses," Houston District G City Councilman Greg Travis said. "Not enough data. Not enough information. I think we're definitely overreaching at a great cost."

The bottom line is some council members want to study the issue more before passing regulations.

That sticking point may leave city council in its own flood zone over this issue— and for awhile to come!