New regulations set for builders in Harris County flood plains; meanwhile, Harvey-impacted residents losing hope

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — While many are still trying to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey's devastation, anyone building new structures in unincorporated Harris County were given new rules Tuesday.

The Harris County Commissioner's Court approved new construction requirements that require all new homes and businesses be at least 24 inches above the 500 year flood plain.

The change makes Harris County's building regulations the toughest in the nation, according to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

“Right now we want to error on the side of making sure that anything built going forward is as safe as possible,” Emmett said.

It's all to avoid experiencing the level of loss southeast Texas saw during the storm, ever again.

“The builders, the developers, nobody is against it," Emmett said. "Everybody is saying 'yes flood control is job one, and we're gonna do it."

While new regulations for future potential damage is considered a good move, where the damage is already done, folks are losing hope.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently surveyed residents living in the 24 counties impacted by Harvey, and researchers found nearly 66% of residents reported property damage, employment disruption or lost income due to the hurricane.

Unfortunately, 45% of those who suffered losses said they're not getting the help they need to recover.

Joy Rizzi is from the Riverview Townhome Community near Kingwood, where homes along the San Jacinto River were completely destroyed when flood waters were released from Lake Conroe.

Rizzi received money from FEMA for repairs, although in her case, there's nothing to repair!

“The support we got from FEMA is the wrong support, and we're not getting any other support," she said. "From what I understand from FEMA, I don't think there's going to be enough funds. Everything that I hear there's never going to be enough funds to even just buy out our community.”

According to the survey, another 42% of residents said they're not confident relief funds will ever reach those most in need.

“I got to trust. I got to trust in God. I got to trust in the system. I’ve got to trust in the city. I’ve got to trust in FEMA. I have to trust that all that stuff is going to happen, but I don't believe it,” she said.

So while building anew gets new regulations, for those trying to pick up the pieces, the system can't work fast enough to make them whole again.