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GLO issues Hurricane Harvey report

Synopsis

The Texas General Land Office recently issued a report outlining recommendations to better respond to events like Hurricane Harvey. Some recommendations in the report could impact rental housing owners and developers.


Key takeaways

  • The Texas General Land Office recently issued Hurricane Harvey: Texas at Risk, a new report outlining recommendations to help Texans be better prepared to respond to future disasters like the 2017 storm.
  • The report outlines a number of recommendations that could impact rental housing owners and developers, including standardized building requirements in areas of the state vulnerable to hurricanes, requirements for building inspectors in those areas and a suggestion that the state help fund the cost of inspectors.
  • The report also suggests that rental property owners in areas prone to repeated flooding be required to disclose that information in leases.
  • Other recommendations involve coordinating efforts between federal agencies to improve disaster response and flexibility for states affected by disasters.

Several recommendations from a recent Texas General Land Office report on how Texans can be better prepared to deal with disaster preparation and recovery could impact rental housing developers and owners.

Hurricane Harvey:  Texas at Risk outlines 18 policy recommendations aimed at disaster prevention, mitigation and response.

Several of the recommendations could impact development through increased flood control regulations, more up-to-date and standardized building requirements and increased enforcement of building codes.

The report recommends giving expanded flood control powers, which may impact development, to the Texas Water Development Board.

It also suggests that the Legislature authorize creation of a Regional Building Code District (RBCD) that would have oversight of building codes in a large swath of the state that is considered most prone to hurricanes. The proposed district would cover about half of the state’s population, including the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Houston, Bryan/College Station, the Coastal Bend, Austin and San Antonio.

While cities and counties would remain responsible for enforcing building codes, the new RBCD would adopt a standardized building code for the region every three years, set qualifications and certification requirements for building code inspectors, and ensure training is available for builders and inspectors.

In addition, the report recommends that the state help fund most of the salaries required for code enforcement officials in the district with the remainder covered through permit fees.

Other recommendations include:

  • Requiring rental property owners in areas with repeated flooding to disclose that information in leases;
  • Consolidating federal funding for Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) temporary housing assistance programs into one block grant for states with a high risk of natural disasters;
  • Creating a single agency for FEMA, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster housing programs to create more efficient and faster response for temporary housing;
  • Expanding the type of housing reconstruction activities eligible for housing reconstruction that could allow use of less expensive, more resilient options; and
  • Establishing a Business Advisory Council on Disaster Recovery and Mitigation to take advantage of expertise from private businesses in dealing with post-disaster recovery.

In addition to the GLO report, a number of Texas House and Senate committees are studying various aspects of how the state can better prepare for and respond to disasters like Hurricane Harvey. Those reports are expected to be released later this year in time for consideration when the Legislature convenes in January 2019.

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