FRIENDSWOOD

Friendswood wants to offer buyouts to the owners of 44 repeatedly flooded properties through a $13.4 million grant program.

The city knew of 86 properties that had flooded both during Hurricane Harvey and before that storm caused massive flooding in late August, Assistant City Manager Morad Kabiri told the council in October.

Only 44 of them met the detailed requirements for the grant, however, city staff members said.

The city would buy the property, the owners would vacate, and no one would be allowed to build new structures on it.

The city is applying for a flood mitigation assistance grant through the Texas Water Development Board to offer the 44 buyouts. The city would not say where the properties are, spokesman Jeff Newpher said.

Seven of the 44 properties are considered severe repetitive losses while the other 37 are repetitive losses, City Manager Roger Roecker said.

The total value of the properties comes to $13.4 million, Roecker said. The city would pay $1.2 million as its match to secure the grant.

Kabiri spent hours talking to residents whose homes flooded after Hurricane Harvey, sometimes acting more as a counselor, Roecker said.

Kabiri and Glenda Faulkner, who is Roecker’s executive assistant, worked on the application and spent time meeting with each homeowner and answering their questions, Roecker said.

SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGE

Harvey made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, about 200 miles south of Friendswood, but in the 72 or so hours that followed, it dumped more than 50 inches of rain in some parts of the area, swelling creeks and bayous and flooding 20,000 homes in Galveston County.

Some homeowners are making hard decisions about whether to rebuild or move, officials said.

Friendswood officials report that Hurricane Harvey flooded or damaged 2,711 houses to varying degrees. Of those homes, 2,410 were single-family residences while 301 were in multifamily units, Roecker said.

Friendswood so far has issued 2,000 building permits since Hurricane Harvey, he said.

Some homeowners won’t get the choice to rebuild if their home had substantial damage, a specific term the National Flood Insurance Program uses. “Substantial damage” means that the cost of restoring a structure to its previous condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred.

When the cost of the work reaches 50 percent, the structure must be brought into compliance with current ordinances and codes.

Friendswood has 120 homes and three businesses in this category, an early Federal Emergency Management Agency assessment found. FEMA representatives evaluated flood-damaged structures after Harvey to determine which ones fall into the “substantial damage” category.

“The number may fluctuate based on new permit applications and potential appeals of current assessments,” Newpher said.

The city would not say where these properties are.

For the city to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, it must enforce strict ordinances about where “substantial damage” homeowners rebuild and whether their homes have to be elevated and if so, how much. It varies depending on where a home site is on a flood map.

The National Flood Insurance Program had 90,000 claims in Texas after Hurricane Harvey, and the program has paid 55 percent of them at a total cost of $5 billion, FEMA spokesman John Miles said.

FEMA has given $1.2 million to cover the city’s initial expenses after the storm, Roecker said.

That included the city’s initial response and some of the debris removal. Crews collected about 145,000 cubic yards of storm debris, but the $1.2 million doesn’t cover all of the cost, he said.

“We are estimating the entire cost of debris removal will be between $4.5 million and $5 million,” Roecker said.

Valerie Wells: 409-683-5246; valerie.wells@galvnews.com

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