The Downside of All That Cheap Housing

More than a few technobrat pundits (and Joel Kotkin) have opined about how Houston, unlike older cities, has lots of cheap housing thanks to the absence of regulation.

There’s a flipside to that coin:

There are a lot of citizens in the community who are extremely frustrated with the inappropriate locations of development within our watersheds. Recent and planned developments along the floodplain and riverfront of the San Marcos river, and the sensitive Edwards Aquifer recharge zone that feeds it, have been a heartbreaking loss for this community. We are sick of get-rich-quick developments that lack the foresight to maintain the quality of life and preserve our endangered natural resources…

And (boldface mine):

…as a lifelong Texan living in flood country outside of Dallas:

This is not my research area so my comments are anecdotal. But I have lived in Texas all my life and have witnessed this over and over. First, Texas is absolutely pro-development and this can create both short-term issues and long-term ones as well. In the short term, the developer pushes the limit in terms of building in flood plains and there is often little resistance. But in the longer term, even if the developer stayed away from existing flood plains, future development changes the flood patterns. So a home that was not in danger 20 years ago is now in danger because a shopping center has paved over 40 acres of land that once absorbed runoff. That runoff is now headed downstream.

Second, flood protection is often to protect business interests and not residential. Case in point, the levees on the Trinity River than runs just south of downtown Dallas. The levees begin a few miles west of downtown and end just east. The levees were built after a flood on the Trinity that inundated downtown. A current example of lack of foresight on the part of planners is the dream of some civic leaders to build a toll road in the flood basin of the Trinity.

Third, Nicholas [Pinter, cited in post above] is right that we flood more than we want to admit. We live north of Dallas-Fort Worth, close to Lake Texoma. When the dam was built, it was estimated that water would only go over the spillway once in 100 years. Well, it has done that 4 times in the last 58, twice since we’ve lived here — 2007 and now this year.

Developers like to “move some dirt’ in the Texas vernacular. They have a great deal of power. Dallas-Fort Worth is exploding in population right now. Every new subdivision or shopping center has an impact on the safety of people and property downstream. We should learn from each flooding event but I’m not sure that we do.

There’s a cost to having one’s home flooded, I would think.

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