Tag Archive for: buyout

Buyouts of Forest Cove Townhomes Progressing, But Slowly

One thousand and twelve days ago, Hurricane Harvey destroyed the Forest Cove townhomes between Hamblen and the West Fork San Jacinto. Yet most still stand – mute reminders of Harvey’s fury and mankind’s folly. They illustrate: a) the need to re-engineer business processes surrounding buyouts and b) rethink multi-family housing in flood-prone areas.

The Love It/Leave It Relationship With Rivers

Jennifer Parks, who lived there for five years and had her wedding ceremony by the river. She and her neighbors loved the area for its quiet, natural beauty and the tightly knit community. People cared for each other. But her family flooded eight times in five years.

During Harvey, her 4-story townhome took on 20 feet of water, a measurement documented by FEMA.

The Parks’ townhome is the 4-story unit behind the one in the foreground.

Three other units in this same building were totally lost to the flood. They extended south (toward the right) in the photo above.

Since the flood, the units have become a magnet for arsonists, looters, squatters, drug dealers, illegal dumpers, and graffiti artists. An arsonist torched the building next to Parks’ last July. See below.

Arson damage last July to a six-unit building on Timberline Drive.
Illegal dumping near another unit
More illegal dumping.

Current Status of Buyouts and Demos

So where do buyouts stand? Harris County Flood Control provided the slightly dated map below.

  • Xs represent buildings that have already been torn down.
  • Green rectangles represent units that have already been purchased.
  • Purple rectangles represent units that are in the process of being purchased.

Four white rectangles with red arrows pointing to them are in a special category. They appear to be units that were swept away in the flood. HCFCD says, “We’re working with the State on approval for these 4 in the first alternate request we submitted in our HMGP grant. (Hazard Mitigation Grant Program).”

A Flood Control spokesperson said, “As soon as entire buildings are purchased, we’re requesting demolition. We’ve demolished six (red x’s) already.”

The two (red circles) are scheduled for demolition. The district says it is still working on five remaining buildings (numbered). However, Building Number Five appears to be torn down already. (That’s why I say the map is slightly dated. See below.) The flood swept away many of those units. At this point, they may be just land purchases.

Usually, until every unit in a building is purchased, nothing can be torn down.

It’s a complex process made more complex by the facts that owners have all moved and Harvey swept away some units.

Picture of building #5 (nearest river) taken two weeks after Harvey shows only two of seven units left standing. The rest were in pieces and mostly downstream. Residents say they were lucky to escape with their lives when the massive SJRA release arrived in the middle of the night without warning.
By March of this year, the rest of Building #5 was just a pile of rubble waiting for a dump truck.

Is It Wise To Build Multi-Family Homes in Floodway?

The length of time it has taken to negotiate these buyouts and the blight that looters have created during the process raise a question.

Should construction of multi-family housing be allowed in a floodway? Or even a floodplain?

It’s difficult enough to buy out single-family homes. The process stretches through three levels of government. From Houston to Austin to Washington D.C. One of these buildings had twelve units. Aligning all those dominos takes time. And as we have seen, during that time, criminals have turned this neighborhood into a cancer infecting surrounding areas. In fact, the twelve unit building was burned to the ground. And that was just one of three fires.

Unfortunately, developers like the cheap land in floodways. And young people with little life experience like the romantic views. It’s a marriage made in hell and a recipe for disaster. Greedy sellers meet eager, unknowledgeable buyers.

I raise this question because last year, about a mile downriver from these townhomes, Romerica applied for permits to build 5,000 condos and 50-story high-rises in an equally flood-prone area.

Nationalized, taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance which is losing billions of dollars would have created the illusion of safety for buyers of those units.

My opinion: The best, cheapest way to avoid these subsidized cycles of building, destruction, buyouts and decay is to avoid building in flood-prone areas in the first place.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 6/6/2020

1012 Days since Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

How and Where to Seek Disaster Recovery Help from Hurricane Harvey

The State of Texas has received multiple appropriations from Congress and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for long-term disaster recovery from Hurricane Harvey. But figuring out where and how to apply for help can be tricky. It depends on where you live.

The General Land Office (GLO) runs the Homeowner Assistance Program throughout the state with the exception of the City of Houston and Harris County. Both have their own programs. If you live outside the City or Harris County, review the types of assistance available immediately below. Links to City and County programs are further below.

Warning: some of these programs are still in development. HUD approved the City and County programs only last December. Another warning: the State is still administering programs, such as Economic Revitalization, that the City and County may not have implemented yet. Things change daily, so consider the information below a starting point.

Townhomes in Forest Cove on Marina Drive destroyed by Hurricane Harvey

For Those Outside Houston or Harris County…

  • Homeowner Assistance Program: Provides funding for rehabilitation and reconstruction of owner-occupied single-family homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Local Buyout and Acquisition Program: Local governments may buyout or acquire eligible homes at a pre-storm or post-storm fair market value to move homeowners out of harm’s way outside of a floodplain to a lower-risk area.
  • Homeowner Reimbursement Program: Allows homeowners to be reimbursed for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred for repairs to their home including reconstruction, rehabilitation or mitigation up to $50,000.
  • Affordable Rental Program: Provides funding for rehabilitation, reconstruction and new construction of affordable multi-family housing units in areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Economic Revitalization Program: Allows for interim assistance to small businesses (up to $250,000) impacted by Hurricane Harvey through deferred forgivable loans in exchange for job creation or retention for low-to-moderate income employees. Small business within Harris County and the city of Houston will be eligible to apply for this program.

For Those Inside City of Houston…

If you live inside the City of Houston, you may qualify under one of these programs.

Homeowner Assistance Program (HoAP)

HoAP is the primary program to help homeowners whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. There are five options within HoAP to assist homeowners at different stages of recovery and with specific recovery needs. The first step in getting help is to take the Harvey Recovery Survey to assess if there are programs you may qualify or and to help identify what documents you will need before you make a formal application.

 Get started with homeowner recovery

Harvey Homebuyer Assistance Program

The Harvey Homebuyer Assistance Program (HBAP) provides up to $30,000 through a forgivable, interest-free loan for down-payment and/or close-cost assistance to qualified homebuyers. The program serves Houstonians earning up to 120% of Area Median Income (AMI). The City places a sale-restricted lien on the home for five years to ensure that the program is meetings its affordability objectives.

Harvey Single-Family Development Program

The Harvey Single-Family Development (HSFD) Program builds new single-family homes for low- and moderate-income Houstonians. These homes typically sell for under $200,000 to eligible buyers. The City places a sale-restricted lien on properties for sale to income-qualified buyers to ensure that the home remains affordable for a specified period.

 Get started with recovery for homebuyers

Harvey Multifamily Program

As a majority-renter city, Houston needs more quality, affordable rental housing after Hurricane Harvey. As demand for housing continues to rise, workers may not be able to afford homes in areas that are safe from flooding and close to jobs and transit. Ensuring Houston’s continued economic growth depends on having transit-connected, resilient, and affordable housing options for people at all income levels. The Multifamily Program provides funding to repair existing and develop new multifamily homes across Houston. Developers will be able to apply for funding through a subrecipient selection process.

Harvey Recovery Small Rental Program

Many Houstonians live in single-family rental properties, or rental properties with fewer than eight units. These small rental properties are important for affordable housing, and many were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. The Harvey Recovery Small Rental Program assists landlords to make repairs and improve the quality of these properties.

 Get started with recovery for landlords

Harvey Public Services Program

Service provider agencies help HCDD implement important programs, including support for people experiencing homelessness, those living with HIV/AIDS, and mental health services. Agencies can apply for funding through this program through a subrecipient selection process.

Buyout Program

This program is intended to assist residents to move out of areas that have been impacted by multiple disasters or are at high risk of flooding from future disasters. The program is currently under development. City of Houston residents interested in a buyout option should visit the Harris County Control District’s Voluntary Home Buyout Program website.

City of Houston Contact Info

City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department

For Those in Harris County, but Outside Houston…

If you life outside Houston, but inside Harris County, start here.

Harris County Contact Info

In Summary

These represent starting points. If you were damaged during Harvey and need help recovering, explore these links. They may help. Each has a screening survey to make sure you qualify. Start there. Good luck.

Posted on January 20, 2019 by Bob Rehak

509 Days After Hurricane Harvey