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Still Homeless Six Months After Harvey: A Look Back at Those Damned Dams

Mountains of ruined drywall, carpet, cabinets and furniture soon loomed tall, turning these Memorial-area condominiums into something resembling a war-torn country. Considered private property by the City of Houston and therefore ineligible for debris removal, The Pines homeowners collectively faced more than $500,000 in debris removal charges, on top of individually paying out-of-state contractors as much as $5,000 to gut a two-bedroom unit.

While Somerset Place and Memorial Drive show evidence of rebuilding, The Pines is stalled in that its bylaws require 100 percent approval when deciding to tear down, repair or sell to a developer. Reaching a consensus among the owners of the 254-unit complex — where second story units are somewhat habitable and first floor units have been gutted to the studs — has proven impossible so far. With more than half the residents of The Pines unable to return home yet still on the hook for property taxes and HOA fees, the tensions are riding high.

J.J. Watt and his Houston Flood Relief Fundraiser still offered a glimmer of hope, having raised more than $37 million dollars in donations. He and his foundation chose well, allocating a portion of the first $30 million through four non-profits: SBP (to rebuild homes), Save the Children (child care and after school programs), Feeding America (distribution of food to the needy) and Americares (for health needs).

Unfortunately, Houston’s problems are monumentally expensive and even a modern-day hero like Watt can’t fix us all. As it turns out, the efforts of SBP’s Owner-Occupied Rebuilding Program are being concentrated in northeast Houston.

“Unfortunately, SBP is unable to approve all of the applications it receives. Because of the widespread need, SBP has had to make difficult geographical choices. In an effort to maximize our impact, SBP will initially focus rebuilding efforts on neighborhoods in Northeast Houston where we have received the most interest and where the fewest services are being provided.” — SBP Team

The Harris County Flood Control District is still facing countless individual and class-action lawsuits under the principles of inverse condemnation, initiated by businesses, residences and properties devastated by the release from Barker, Addicks and also the Lake Conroe dam. Only time will tell if these suits will hold up in court and what the ultimate tally will be for this decision.

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