Harris County leaders call for home buyouts, new reservoir


Just 19 days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall and dropped ten trillion gallons of water on Southeast Texas, the elected leader of Harris County says it's high time to start buying out vulnerable homeowners, particularly on the west side.

"The definition somehow gets lost when if you say it's a ‘once in 500 year event' and it happens three times in two years," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

And not just a few homes. Judge Emmett says $800 million worth of buyouts to start, with an optimal goal of $2.5 billion more.

"If you have area where you know you are going to release water in and you know you are going to those flood homes, then why have homes there?" said Emmett.

Just as critical, new money to bolster existing reservoirs and billions more to build another one north of the Addicks.

"Sooner or later we are going to have to realize where we live costs some serious investment and that's without getting into the question of the coastal surge barrier," said Emmett.

Meantime, the profound damage done by Harvey is hitting those without flood insurance hardest.

Disaster Attorney Nyanza Moore is steering homeowners without the ready cash to rebuild toward low interest loans from the federally funded Small Business Administration.

"If it's your homestead you can apply for up to $200,000 to repair your home and that's just for the structure. If you want to additional money for the personal property that was damaged, than you can apply for up to $40,000," said Moore.

As for more immediate relief from FEMA, Francisco Sanchez with Harris County Emergency Management cautions that those grants are limited in size.

"I would sort of understand moving forward as you apply for those benefits is knowing that a realistic number is $10,000 or less," said Sanchez.

Emmett told FOX 26 that he's been assured by legislative leaders that the state will tap its "Rainy Day" fund to aid Harris County.

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