Residents of Houston, Texas know what it’s like to endure one of the country’s most severe storms ever recorded. Hurricane Harvey hit the Midwest state in fall 2017 bringing with it severe devastation that has been estimated to have impacted nearly 50% of all homes in the area.
Before Harvey, storm destruction was not uncommon but what this category 4 hurricane did do that others could not is influence the cities rebuild and future development on a massive scale.
Historically, the city of Houston has had a relatively unregulated approach to expansion that has acted similarly to the build out methods of other top Texas cities such as Dallas. With an increasing need for housing, commercial buildings and overall citywide infrastructure, the focus had most often been centered on quick turnaround time rather than longevity and ability to sustain Houston’sfluctuating weather patterns.
But a critical problem resulted on a wide scale from the lack of standards and enforcement that previously did not exist in the city – an issue that has cost the city’s government, residents, businesses and overall community extreme loss that has been hard to recover from.
This natural disaster caused from Hurricane Harvey helped to change the trajectory of future development in the city and is putting more pressure on the area’s investors and developers to bring “smart growth” to the table. Building out for the future in a way that not only pushes investing in more densely populated locations but also accounts for storm protection to protect the area’s residents, buildings and overall economy.
The recent surge of storms hitting the country around the east coast of North Carolina and just this week in Florida’sPanhandle has created even more national attention on these matters. As the rebuild is in the near future, it is important for areas to look to those steps taken by places hit hard like Houston to make more sustainable developments moving forward.
Within the Texas city, not every community was destroyed from the 2017 storm that was the first category 4 to hit the US since 2005. The network of better-planned suburbs like that of the metro’s Woodlands community introduced a new generation of development that was designed to better protect the environment and its structures through natural means. This area was built to sustain the frequent weather surges that hit around the Houston location by better means of housing distribution, resource planning, and higher building standards. A 30-year veteran of the Texas property development industry Marcus Hiles shares, “By our efforts to bring more sustainable housing and urbanism to these suburban areas, we are able to keep the local economy growing even in the face of a severe storm.” And just like in other parts of the country, the storms Houston will face is not over. In just the last three years, five major disasters have hit the city continuing to impact residents and the businesses of the community.
As the rebuild begins Houston can be looked at as a model for what can happen and how we can make smarter steps to a more sustainable and safer future that puts standards on development and future growth. It will be some time before we know what natural disaster is next, but it is inevitable and will again impact people on a national scale.