Heavy rainfall pounded Houston this week, causing terrible flooding in a wide swath of the nation’s largest home building market. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency in nine counties, as, according to The Weather Channel, rainfall came down at rates as high as four inches an hour. The heavy flooding continued in parts of the area throughout the week.
On a societal level, the damage is still a long way from being fully assessed, but from a Houston home builder’s perspective, especially with spring selling season underway, the flooding will most likely delay projects and make the already fierce competition for skilled labor all the more intense.
Will Holder, president of Trendmaker Homes, says his company’s 25 communities in Houston didn’t suffer much physical damage but accessibility to roadways has made things difficult. But while the amount of rain has been a surprise, the timing of the storm was fortunate for builders.
“We get heavy rain all the time along the gulf coast, but this was not anticipated,” Holder says. “However, the storm developed over the weekend, which is good because we normally have very few materials around the sites over the weekends. Our sites are all cleaned on Fridays and I think this helped us a lot.”
Once the region begins to get back to normal, he adds, there will be new demand for all kinds of materials and labor that will slow progress slightly over the next few months. “Our trades specialize in new construction, but laborers will get distracted by the opportunity to make better than average money immediately following weather events like this,” he says. “We will be delayed, but by weeks, not months.”
By mid-week, homes that were under construction and past the roofing stage had resumed construction at Toll Brothers' 13 communities currently under construction in Houston, according to Division President Karl Mistry. However, he adds, “It takes several days for the ground and construction sites to dry and begin getting new homes started.”
Still, none of Toll’s employees’ homes experienced flooding and the same was true for its communities. “All of our projects have detention facilities that worked as they were designed and no home that we are aware of has had flood damage,” he said.
One block that didn’t fare as well was Lawrence Dean’s, senior advisor at Houston Metrostudy. He had water up to his front door, but luckily not in his home. His neighbors on either side, however, were not as fortunate.
Last spring, Dean notes, Houston was hit with a major flood and most of the homeowners in his neighborhood, including Dean, only returned to their homes a few short weeks before this week’s floods hit. “Repairs to those houses haven’t even been completed from the last flood and now they flooded again,” he said.
The heavy rainfall last year reminded Newland Real Estate Group to check and re-check its engineering plans and solutions, says Ted Nelson, president of the company’s Central Region, in case an event like this were to happen. The most significant downpour occurred on the west side of the city, Nelson adds, which is where Newland is opening a new project. “It will be slowed, but minimally and will not impact our opening schedule,” he says.
“Due to the lack of topography in Houston,” Nelson adds, “we engage the best and brightest engineers with significant hydrology capability simply because we intuitively understand that with flat land; the solution to drainage solutions is one of our largest challenges. Short-term, last-minute ‘fixes’ can do little when dealing with this level of storm.”
While the flooding was rough this time around, Holder says it’s part of building in Houston. “Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience with bad weather,” he says. “We stand ready for these events.”
Jennifer Goodman contributed to this story.