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Harris County approves tough elevation rules for new construction in floodplains

HOUSTON – In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Harris County commissioners on Tuesday approved some of the most stringent elevation requirements in the country when it comes to new construction.

Early-stage projects that fall short of the new requirements could be thrown into disarray by the new regulations that take effect Jan. 1.

DOCUMENT: Read a draft of the new regulations that were approved

The regulations do not apply to municipalities within Harris County. In other words, developers in the city of Houston are not subject to the new rules.

The stiffest new requirement may be that homes in new, “non-conforming” subdivisions must have finished floor elevations above the 500-year flood level.

A draft of the regulations that were approved read, in part:

"The top of the subfloor of the lowest habitable floor must be elevated to 24 or more inches above the base 0.2 percent or 500-year flood elevation or 12 inches above the level of the crown of the nearest public street, whichever is higher, except in a floodway where the bottom of the lowest supporting member of the structure shall be elevated 36 or more inches above 0.2 percent or 500-
year flood elevation."

A “non-conforming” subdivision is one that does not meet certain qualifications regarding how the streets are situated in relation to the houses and how water is engineered to flow through the neighborhood.

The new regulations also mandate how home elevation can be achieved. No fill -- in other words dirt -- may be used to achieve elevation in new construction homes within the 100-year floodplain.

The new floodplain regulations also mandate certain disclosures by builders regarding flood elevations.

Raising homes, even during initial construction, costs builders more money. That cost will inevitably be passed along to consumers.


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