COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE COMING FLOOD OF FLOOD INSURANCE PREMIUM HIKES “If flood insurance becomes as expensive as predicted by the Chron article, it would make large parts of Houston financially uninhabitable. Folks owning property in the Heights now have even more reason to be pleased with themselves.” [Chef, commenting on Headlines: A PAC for the Astrodome Plan; A Kibosh on Free Rail Rides to Texans Games] Illustration: Lulu
Well, “The Heights” is maybe 2 feet higher than Downtown, I don’t even notice the rise when I drive into “The Heights”. It’s hardly like driving from the Castro up into Pacific Heights. I highly doubt flood insurance in “The Height” than 1.222 feet lower River Oaks.
The height is all relative to what watershed you are in. The Heights is in no better shape than say River Oaks. The big place this is going to impact is Galveston County. There is currently a PMR that will raise the storm surge elevations 2 feet… this will impact a lot of people not currently in the floodplain.
According to the Heights association website (http://www.houstonheights.org/founders.htm), the Heights is 23 feet higher than downtown Houston. While you may not notice it, the difference is real.
The only problem with the new rates is the implementation. Too much, too soon. Otherwise, I am very happy that tax payers are gradually lowering the subsidies in the form of Federal Flood Insurance that are paid to people who insist on living in areas where no one should be living or, at best, you should pay your own way if you do decide to live there. The Federal Government should not be obligated to build people a new home every 15-20 years when they live on a hurricane prone barrier island for nothing more than a premium of $800-1,500 a year.
I’ve lived in the Heights since ’97. During Allison, basically a moat formed around the Heights – the only way out was through bridges. My street (12th) was well drained.
I always assumed The Heights was “Higher than though” based on their unjustified level of self worth.
The ‘water’ cycle:
FEMA studies an area and the model warrants a rise or expansion of the 1% annual chance floodplain.
Public outcry at cost increases. “I have never seen the water get this high.”
Community sues and/or higher own engineers.
Engineers tweak model and lower the floodplain.
Now out of the floodplain, residents still don’t buy insurance since they are no longer forced to.
“Where is FEMA??? We need help!”
The low flood plaines should be returned back to a “nature preserve”. It will be good for our local environment, give lots of space for folks to get out and enjoy our geographic region. This will also enable devolopers to building in regions more suitable for humans.
I’m with Old School. If you want to live somewhere your house is so likely to be destroyed by flooding, you should bear the costs of it. Before the government started insuring against this, people kept a healthy distance from the water. It wasn’t until government insurance came along that so much building happened in so many flood prone areas. I’m tired of subsidizing other people’s misunderstanding of nature just so they can have a view.
Yes, I would not have guessed 23 feet higher than Downtown. When you drive from
downtown Dallas into Highland Park you notice the rise, it’s discernible, I’ve never even really noticed it driving into the Heights from the South, but I take their word for the 23 feet, but drainage in one area in relation to another makes a huge difference as well. I mean if White Oak doesn’t drain properly it really doesn’t matter what the elevation of the heights.
Really, I’ve never really considered the Heights snobby, I mean most of it is run down and they have ditches for heaven sakes, really all that’s there is cute bungalows most of the old mansions are long gone, as for as holier than tho, you might look to places like the Menorial Villages
Let the house lifting begin! Although I thought this was a silly idea at first with the cost savings in premiums this method of mitigating flood damages is becoming more viable.
Propensity to flood is also influenced by what happens upstream and down. After Allison, a number of long timers remarked that White Oak Bayou had never been that high, not even during the previous record flooding in the ’30s (which prompted building Addicks and Barker Dams). However, in the ’30s Houston pretty much ended at Shepherd; beyond that was farms and rice fields; they don’t generate anywhere close to as much quick runoff as roofs and pavement. In addition, the channelizing of the bayous moves the water downstream quicker, all right – but when it gets to a point where it can’t go any further, you might as well have built a dam. At that point, all the water that was previously moving downstream quickly, starts rising quickly. So now, the Corps is rebuilding low spots and oxbows that were taken out in the concreting frenzy of the ’60s and calling them retention ponds.
Greg: That’s all fine and dandy, until you think about the real-world implications of what that means. There’s thousands of people and billions of dollars of development in the 100 and 500 year floodplains; much of it done before the floodplains were mapped. Allowing those areas to revert back to nature would require a massive relocation program, along the lines of what China is doing – that is to say, far beyond anything anyone in the US would really consider trying.
That said, I’m all for small, organized efforts at relocating people away from the most flood-prone areas: places that are not only in a mapped floodplain, but that also have a history of flooding in even minor rainfall events. But instead of just nature preserves, these places should be turned into flood mitigation projects that double as nature preserves. Get a double benefit….
I believe the saying you are looking for is “Holier than thou”. I get your play on words using “higher” since you are talking about the Heights, but “higher than though” makes no sense.
Rex, you couldn’t have said it better!
Yes, it was a play on words, and yes I misspelled “thou”. It’s hard to type while driving and maintaining the 3 foot rule from bi-wheeled menace on the roads.
It would be nowhere near the scale of chinese internal migrations.
It doesn’t have to be immediate.
No more new subsidized insurance policies and one last buy out if you continue to pay your current low premiums.
Bellaire has codes against new home construction elevating the lots over a small amount and also requires pier and beam new construction.In the Heights we are drastically raising lot elevations as well as solid cement slab construction.Heights properties many times drain into ditches that are blocked and not maintained by the city.
@thedudeabides (Post #3): The elevation of downtown varies throughout downtown. Buffalo Bayou is at sea level, and Allen’s Landing picks up only a few feet above that. The historic district and courthouse district both sit on a rise from the bayou that varies block-by-block for several blocks going inland; this is noteworthy because old marketing materials probably would have made a comparison to somewhere within this small sliver of old downtown. And south of that, in the modern core of downtown Houston, elevation ranges from about 45 to 50 feet.
What is the Houston Heights depends a little bit on how you define it, but it should be stated that the elevation of White Oak Bayou varies from sea level at Houston Avenue to 10 feet at Heights Blvd. to 17 feet at TC Jester. If Woodland Heights counts as “Heights”, then homes range from an elevation of about 30 feet to 52 feet above a bayou at sea level. That is comparable to downtown Houston. The Houston Heights (proper) seems to vary from about 45 to 60 feet above a 10 foot bayou. That is comparable to downtown Houston.
The differences have less to do with elevation than with the characteristics impacting the watershed(s). The Heights doesn’t flood as readily and we can observe that, but that is not so simply attributable to its namesake.
Old School / Densify, thanks for saving me the need to type. Well said!
People should be able to build whereever they want. If someone wants to build and live right on the water, good for them. They can then chose to insure (or be forced to by a lender) at whatever the market decides the cost:risk is to insure such a building, or chose to roll the dice and not insure.
There is no need to relocate anyone. There is a need, however, for people to pay a true cost of what it costs to insure a property based on it’s location.