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Will Hurricane Harvey Change The Rules Of Development In Houston?

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the booming Houston real estate market has some reckoning to do. Damaged properties must be demolished or rebuilt, which will, at least temporarily, tax the availability of construction workers for new builds. The subsequent demand for and rising cost of construction materials may also be a barrier to construction. And then there is the question of how things will be done differently in the future, if at all.

Some see changes to zoning laws in and around Houston as an unlikely solution to the city’s persistent flooding problem, which has been exacerbated in part by aggressive building in areas that were once prairie lands and watershed areas that would absorb and redirect water.

Federal emergency money is likely to be used to buy homes that have been most devastated by the storm. New properties are increasingly being built higher off the ground. Some of that federal money could be used to improve water management systems in the city, too. But whether such measures would be enough to prevent this kind of damage in future storms remains to be seen. While seemingly improbable, it is possible that stricter zoning and building regulations could be in store for Houston.

Even in the wake of the hurricane, the Houston real estate market still appears to be strong. While there may be delays caused by limited labor and materials, eventually the city’s focus will again shift to new construction and development. Forging ahead in this potentially new environment, developers would do well to consult with a real estate attorney to navigate the evolving terrain of post-hurricane Houston.