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February 16, 2018

Mayor Turner Requests Your Feedback on Proposed Flood Ordinance Changes

As I work to make sure Houston stands even stronger in the next natural disaster, I join the City Council and Houston Public Works in welcoming your feedback about the flood ordinance changes I have proposed. The changes are aimed at making future dwellings (and buildings) in Houston less likely to flood.

The heart of the changes, which I described to City Council weeks ago, mean that we would no longer use the “100-year flood plain” as our guide. The 100-year flood plain is land that would flood in a storm that brings 13-14 inches of rain in 24 hours – an occurrence that was expected once every hundred years.

Instead the City would use the “500-year flooding plain” as the new standard. The 500-year flood plain is land that would flood in a storm that brings 17-19 inches of rain in 24 hours -- an occurrence that was expected once every five hundred years.

Houston regulated to the 100-year floodplain since the flood plain was officially mapped in 1981. Thousands of homes that were built before 1981 have flooded and may flood again. But another 4,808 homes that were built to 100-year standards flooded during Harvey.

There will be more storms in the future. We cannot control when and where they will hit. We can, however, control how we prepare for when they do hit.

This leads me to propose transforming the way we build in flood plains. Future homes and buildings would have to be built 2 feet above the 500-year flood level. Building homes higher can help save lives and belongings. The construction may cost more, but the cost of death and destruction in the next storm would be much higher.

There are 640 square miles within the Houston city limits. Nearly 30% of the City is in the 100-year floodplain. Expanding to include the 500-year would cover another 7% of the city with these regulations.

In addition to the elevation requirements applying to this additional area, we would require construction techniques that do not bring in “fill” (such as soil) to elevate property out of the floodplain. In some cases, the changes will also affect the largest additions and expansions of existing homes.

We must move quickly to make changes in “the post-Harvey era.” So I plan to ask the Council to vote on the changes on March 21.

I sought input about the changes before I announced my proposal. The feedback came from various stakeholders, including developers, architects, engineers, and others.

Now I urge you to share your thoughts with us about the subject.

You can send an e-mail to me at

You can contact your district council members by starting at

You can write to Public Works Director Carol Haddock at

You can take an online survey at

This information and more is available online at

Thank you,

Sylvester Turner Mayor