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Only fraction of flood victims advance in elevation grant process

HOUSTON – The city of Houston will start telling some flooding victims Tuesday that they do not qualify for a federal grant to raise their homes above flood elevation. Only 39 homes were accepted by the federal government to move on to the next step. Originally, 600 Houstonians applied for 2016 elevation grants.

The city submitted 173 homes in four grants. Three of the grants were not accepted by the federal government, the city learned last week.

That news comes as homeowners approved for a similar grant in 2015 still have not seen money or action to raise their homes.

"Be patient. That's the only thing I can say," Mark Loethen, the city's Deputy Director of Planning and Development in the Public Works Department, told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jace Larson. "We are in the final stages of negotiations with the Texas Water Development Board. It has taken longer than I think any of us anticipated. We are dealing with federal funding and state processes."

A contract has to be agreed upon between the city and the water board. Federal money passes through the water board to the city.

Loethen said he hopes elevating some of the more than 40 homes approved using 2015 grant money will begin before the end of the year, but he said there are no guarantees.

"I had very high hopes that by the summer, we would be able to do that, and I was proven wrong," he said.

Meyerland resident Frank Inselbuch's home was flooded during the 2015 Memorial Day flood, again last October and during the Tax Day Flood this past April.

"The repairs were finished on April 15. Three days later, on April 18, is when the second flood hit," Inselbuch said. "We just sat here and watched as all the new construction and all the repairs got flooded again."

Inselbuch is number six on the 2015 grant list.

"They'll take the floor up 4.8 feet," he said.

He is frustrated by the delay.

"It is just taking forever for that to come to pass. We were told deadline after deadline that has been missed and ignored," Inselbuch said.

He is hoping the new timeline sticks so he and his family can move on with their lives.

"Cut through the red tape and get us back into our homes. That would be great," Inselbuch said.

If you have a tip about this story, or another tip for investigative reporter Jace Larson, email or text him at jlarson@kprc.com or 832-493-3951.