Flood Control buyouts creating ‘Ghost Neighborhoods’

Arbor Oaks no longer exists. Woodland Trails West, Section 1, is close to extinction.

Houston – In northwest Houston, not far from West Little York and Antoine Drive, is a neighborhood that no longer exists, although there is still aging subdivision signage identifying the area as Arbor Oaks.

The last home in the area was torn down last year, which was part of a two-decade effort to “de-develop” the subdivision that once had more than 200 homes.

The Harris County Flood Control District now owns the properties in Arbor Oaks, two of which are now inhabited by tent dwellers.

Harris County Flood Control signage in the Woodland Trials West subdivision. (KPRC)

The curb cuts for driveways have been filled, and the homes’ foundations have been removed too.

The area regularly floods, and the buyouts appear to have started after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.

Now Arbor Oaks, sandwiched between White Oak Bayou and Vogel Creek, is a frisbee golf park, but crime in the area, which includes at least four other functioning subdivisions, has increased, when comparing 2010 to 2020.

In 2010, the Houston Police Department beat 6B30 registered 1,999 police incidents, with theft, burglary, and aggravated assaults as the top three crime categories.

In 2020, the same police beat registered 2,879 police incidents, with simple assault, vandalism, and aggravated assaults as the top three crime categories.

Less than four miles to the northwest, is another subdivision, headed in the same direction, Woodland Trails West, section one.

“I don’t feel unsafe, I never have. Honestly, knock on wood, I have never had a problem,” said Maria Matinez, a 20-year-long resident.

Martinez once had six other houses on her cul-de-sac, now, she is the only one left on her block.

Martinez and the 30 to 40 families left have taken note of a November 2022 murder, an 18-year-old man who was shot to death inside of his car nearby.

A Harris County Sheriff’s Office deputy notated in a crime scene report at the time, “the subdivision is sparsely developed and most of the lots are owned by the Harris County Flood Control District.”

“It’s hard to call it a community when you have three or four homes how are you able to operate as a community,” said Sheri Smith, a professor of Urban Planning and interim Department Chairperson at Texas Southern University.

Bucking the trend

There is certainly no shortage of new neighborhood development construction in the Houston area, particularly outside Houston city limits.

These high dollar projects, are most often always undertaken by established, well-funded, corporate players.

Terry Alleyne, a Houston resident, and a welder by trade, wants to buck that trend.

Alleyne is trying to re-start a neighborhood that completely disappeared by 2010.

The defunct Sims Bayou Vista neighborhood once had about 40 one-story homes, located on a sliver of land between Sims Bayou and Airport Boulevard.

Now, the land is empty.

Almost empty.

Alleyne built his three-story home (with no living quarters on the first floor) to be resistant to flooding.

If and when capital becomes available, Alleyne wants to build more, similar homes.

He and his family are worried about crime in the area, and as KPRC 2 conducted the interview, a man across the street appeared to be passed out on the sidewalk.

Alleyne has security cameras, and his wife is comfortable enough with their new neighborhood to want to stay, he said.

“I came from a neighborhood that had police coming at two or three in the morning because of domestic violence, so for me and my wife we kind of love it,” Alleyne said, indicating they’re happy to call Sims Bayou Vista home.