UH study shows Hurricane Harvey's effect on Houston

HOUSTON – Over half the residents polled recently by the University of Houston support tougher restrictions and construction and more infrastructure projects to control flooding, but up to 50 percent said they oppose raising taxes to pay for them.

The study by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs polled 2,002 residents living primarily in Harris County, but also parts of Montgomery, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties, in November and December.

The results show damage from Hurricane Harvey crossed all divisions of race, age and income levels.

In the poll, about 80 percent of respondents said they’d suffered some negative effects from the storm, including property damage or lost income.

Loss of income:

  • Latino: 74 percent
  • Asian-American: 62.5 percent
  • African-American: 56.41 percent
  • White: 50.4 percent
  • Millennials: 73.9 percent

The greatest loss of income was among Latinos, millennials and people earning below $50,000 a year.

Pablo Pinto, a professor and the director of the university's Center for Public Policy said the common denominator is that many in those groups are hourly-wage earners.

“Mostly, they are wage earners that get paid by the hour and so big disruptions we observed is, if they didn’t go to work, they lost income,” Pinto said.

Almost 40 percent of respondents said floodwaters damaged their homes.

  • Flood damage to residence: 39.8 percent
  • Flood damage to car: 31.5 percent
  • Injury to themselves or family members: 16.6 percent
  • Power loss: 46.7 percent
  • Home broken into/looted: 13.8 percent

Damage to a vehicle was reported by 31.5 percent and almost 17 percent said they or family members had been injured, but the report confirms that, at the time of greatest peril, Houstonians pulled together.

File: UH Harvey Survey Highlights

One in 5 people said they not only received help from volunteers, but also volunteered to provide help for others.

  • Volunteered to help and received help: 22%

“Houston Strong really showed up here, when you look at it,” Pinto said.

Looking ahead to the next big storm, over 80 percent of respondents said they now support new building codes to avoid flooding, greater restrictions on building in flood plains, and construction of a third reservoir to protect Houston.

  • Oppose property tax increase: 46 percent
  • Oppose sales tax increase: 50 percent

In Harris County, 46 percent said they oppose raising property taxes to pay for the improvements and even more oppose raising sales taxes.

“I think it will change over time precisely because there’s a big generational divide on this. Millennials are willing to pay taxes compared to people who are about 40,” Pinto said.

The UH study will track the same respondents over the next five years as the city rebuilds.

The next survey is scheduled to be conducted this spring.