Forty-two of some of the most flood-prone homeowners in Houston are, quite literally, about to get a face lift.
This week, the City of Houston announced it was working with FEMA, the Texas Water Development board and the 42 recipients of hard-sought Flood Mitigation Assistance grants that would allow those homeowners to elevate their homes to avoid future flooding events.
The 42 recipients were homeowners whose homes were deluged during the Memorial Day floods of 2015. That weekend, a total of 3,015 homes flooded and more than 3,500 multi-family units flooded. FEMA approved more than 13,000 residents for federal disaster assistance, and they collectively sought roughly $57 million in aid.
To qualify for the home elevation remedy, homeowners had to have an NFIP flood insurance policy, and priority was given to the "Severe Repetitive Loss" and "Repetitive Loss" properties. FEMA provides the funds, which are channeled through the water development board and administered by the City of Houston. The city is expected to select contractors for the construction by March 14 and will begin construction on the first ten homes by early May.
No doubt this probably includes many Meyerland homeowners, who repeatedly fell victim to deluges of water rushing through their homes. In many cases, once they finished remodeling or refurnishing their homes after one flood, another one would hit.
That was the case for Mahmoud Harmouche's family. After the January 18 flood, which brought four to six inches of water into his Meyerland home, Harmouche said his home had flooded five times since he moved in in 2003. After the first flood, Harmouche said, he declined an offer to elevate his home, a construction project that would have cost around $110,000. But as the floods kept coming in 2012, 2015, 2016 and again in 2017, Harmouche said he was kicking himself for not paying the price, and was considering moving away. The floods, he said, had exhausted him and his wife.
Reached Thursday, Harmouche said optimistically that he believes he is in fact one of the 42 recipients of the grants. We asked whether this would cause him and his wife to change their minds about leaving — to give Meyerland one last shot, hoping the floods would stay away. But Harmouche said it was a sore subject.
"It's kind of depressing," he said, "I'd rather not discuss it."