Letters to hundreds of District E residents went out Friday, Dec. 15, advising homeowners that their homes have been designated as Substantially Damaged. The designation applies only to homes located in the 100-year flood plain that were damaged more than half of their value (land not included).
Jessica Beemer, chief of staff for Houston City Council Member Dave Martin, said that 391 homes were surveyed by FEMA since Hurricane Harvey and deemed “substantially damaged” in District E.
Those getting the letters must comply with FEMA’s policies regarding these homes, but essentially the property owners must elevate their homes above the flood level or abandon their homestead.
The City of Houston cooperates with FEMA to identify the homes and to send the letters to property owners.
“You are receiving the attached official substantial damage letter because the best information available to the City indicates that the damage to your home in the recent flood will cost 50 percent or more of the value of your home (not including the land) before it was damaged,” the cover letter stated.
For homeowners whose homes are “substantially damaged,” it means the lowest living floor of the home must be elevated above the base flood elevation in order to get a permit for repairs. The other option is to appeal the letter.
Owners can knock down their home and build one that’s elevated above the base flood elevation or they can elevate their existing home above the base flood elevation. Homeowners can apply for a grant to elevate their home. Even if the grant is awarded, it can take two years or more to actually receive the funds and have the elevation done.
Beemer said this is the first group of letters to go out.
“District E has the most homes to get letters in this first round as we were flooded earlier than other parts of the city,” she said.
“We do expect some more letters, depending on FEMA,” Beemer added.
According to Public Works, if a homeowner can’t elevate their home or tear down and rebuild to put their home in compliance, they can’t get a permit to repair the home. Some other options are applying for the Harris County Buyout Program, applying for an SBA loan or, if they have FEMA flood insurance and they raise their home, they can be eligible for the Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage, which is $30,000.
If a homeowner doesn’t come into compliance, the City of Houston is required to notify the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The homeowner potentially may not be eligible for flood insurance or future disaster assistance.
“In ZIP code 77339, we had 28 requests for the substantial damage designation, 22 of which were determined to be substantially damaged and six are still pending,” Beemer said. “But so far, 391 in our district, which includes parts of Huffman and Clear Lake, in addition to Kingwood and Atascocita, have been designated as substantially damaged.”