This Week's Headlines

Residents may be forced to elevate homes

Fake cop arrested for robberies

Boykins seeks storm-relief funds

Leader Christmas drive underway

 

Sweitzer named Distinguished Citizen

Snow strikes South Belt

Scarsdale debris still here

Meador thanks participants in fundraiser

San Jac workshop to provide toy safety information on Dec. 19

City exploring new downtown option for homeless

Commissioner Ellis hosts series of precinct park workshops

CCISD high school students inducted into NTHS

Hancock students selected as SHHS Rising Stars

HAS names Rambo GM of Hobby Airport

Moore fourth-grade choir performs

Laura Bush Elementary holds Spelling Bee

NASA Aglow welcomes Chandler

Longhorns land five among 22-6A football’s best

Dobie, Brook boys’ hoopsters reach league play

SJC baseball set to go

Brook, Dobie grads help Mary Hardin-Baylor win

Defending champs win; Alvin turns back Brook

Marquez, Morris pace Dobie’s all-district football picks

SBHLL details sign up

 

 

Residents may be forced to elevate homes

Nearly 100 South Belt homeowners who flooded during Hurricane Harvey will likely be forced to elevate their houses, should they choose to remain in their homes, according to recently released data from city officials.

According to the city’s Public Works and Engineering Department, at least 90 homes in the 77089 ZIP code have been deemed “substantially damaged” and will require extensive upgrades in order to comply with current building codes. For most affected residents, this will require raising structures by 12 inches above the base flood elevation in a 100-year flood plain or 18 inches if in a floodway.

In all, more than 1,600 homeowners in the city will be impacted by the measure.

A house is considered substantially damaged if the damage to the home is such that the total cost of restoring it to its pre-damage condition equals or exceeds 50 percent of the pre-damage market value of the structure only (i.e., not including the land value).

For example, if a property’s total pre-damage value (including both house and land) is $200,000, but the structure alone is appraised at $100,000, and repairs cost $60,000, the house would be substantially damaged since repairs are more than 50 percent of the home value.

All properties declared substantially damaged will be flagged by the Houston Permitting Center, and requests for building permits will require evidence the residence is compliant with current city code.

Affected residents should receive a letter from the city by the end of the year notifying them of the requirement. More letters are expected to be sent after the new year, following further analysis by the city, working in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Elevating a house is a massive undertaking and is not cheap, often equaling the total cost of the existing residence, or more.

The cost of raising a house generally costs between $65 and $70 per square foot, local construction sources said.

According to HAR.com, the average size of a single-family home in the 77089 ZIP code is 1,824 square feet. At $65 per square foot, the cost of elevating the median-sized home would be roughly $118,500.

Current HAR listings show houses in the 77089 ZIP code ranging from $112,000 to $149,000.

The median sold price through the real estate company is currently $83.55, while the median appraised value is $ 71.21 per square foot.

While the specific addresses of the substantially damaged homes have not been released due to privacy laws, it is presumed most are in the Sagemont and Scarsdale subdivisions and would relatively be on the lower end of the spectrum in regards to appraised value. (Residents who have received a letter from the city are urged to contact the Leader.)

Residents who don’t comply with the regulations may face serious consequences.

The City of Houston is required to notify FEMA of all residents who fail to comply with the building code. Homeowners who do not follow the ordinance may not be eligible for flood insurance or future disaster assistance.

Further, Public Works officials said if a homeowner does not elevate their home (or tear down and rebuild in compliance with city code), they can’t get a permit to make necessary repairs to the home.

Other possible options include applying for a Small Business Administration loan or applying for the Harris County Buyout Program. (For more information on the county’s buyout program, visit www.hcfcd.org/hurricane-harvey/home-buyout-program, call 713-684-4020 or 713-684-4035, or see the Oct. 26 edition of the Leader.) Residents who have FEMA flood insurance may be eligible for up to $30,000 in federal funds to help pay for elevation costs.

Homeowners may contest their substantial-damage designation by submitting an appeal to the city’s Floodplain Management Office at www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/floodplain.html.

Fake cop arrested for robberies

A man accused of impersonating a police officer in order to rob multiple pharmacies across the Greater Houston area, including two in the immediate South Belt community, has been arrested, according to law enforcement officials.

At press time, Travis Lee Wilson, 32, had been charged with aggravated robbery for allegedly stealing from a Walgreens pharmacy located in the 2100 block FM 2920 in Spring. More charges are expected to follow.

Locally, Wilson is accused of targeting the CVS pharmacy in the 10900 block of Scarsdale near Beamer and the H-E-B pharmacy in the 9800 block of Blackhawk at Beltway 8, both on Monday, Nov. 27.

Wilson is also suspected of robbing the Edgewood Pharmacy at 120 S. Friendswood Drive in Friendswood on Thursday, Sept. 28, and a Kroger pharmacy at 12000 Highway 6 in Missouri City on Tuesday, Nov. 21. One witness told investigators that he also recognized Wilson as a man pretending to be a police officer during Hurricane Harvey. Wilson was reportedly telling residents to evacuate their homes when there was no need to do so, possibly to loot their houses.

Investigators said Wilson’s modus operandi was similar in each case. Dressed in full police gear, Wilson would allegedly claim to be a narcotics officer in order to gain access to private areas of the pharmacy. He would then demand certain types of potent pain medication, such as OxyContin or Fentanyl.

Witnesses said Wilson would threaten to kill anyone around if his demands weren’t met.

Investigators caught a break in the case when a vehicle linked to the Spring robbery was spotted in the Alvin area. After a witness positively identified Wilson out of a photo lineup, personnel from the Texas Department of Public Safety Violent Crime Squad executed the felony warrant.

A search of Wilson’s vehicle yielded a toy gun, a black shirt with “POLICE” on it and a fake badge. Several Fentanyl patches were also found inside Wilson’s residence.

Wilson was arrested without incident.

Several other law enforcement agencies assisted in the investigation, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County Precinct 2 Constable’s office, the Houston Police Department and the Texas Rangers.

Boykins seeks storm-relief funds

Houston District D City Council Member Dwight Boykins is participating in a delegation trip to Washington, D.C., comprised of business leaders and government officials, for the purpose of advocating for increased recovery dollars for the City of Houston.

Boykins will meet with key federal officials and urge the White House and members of Congress to increase the amount of federal disaster aid for the city’s long-term recovery efforts following Hurricane Harvey.

Earlier this month, the Office of Budget Management requested $44 billion from Congress to assist with Harvey recovery efforts, in addition to recovery efforts in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This number is significantly less than the $61 billion that was submitted to Congress for Texas alone and is inadequate in meeting the needs of the state of Texas and its residents.

“More than three months after Harvey devastated neighborhoods throughout the city of Houston, countless families are still struggling to rebuild their lives,” Boykins said. “When the storm hit, the city mobilized resources to save lives, provide emergency housing, remove debris and manage a large-scale disaster response. Now it is time for Washington to step up and provide sufficient funding for long-term recovery. The people of Houston should not be shortchanged following one of the worst natural disasters in the city’s history.”
Boykins will also advocate for additional federal dollars to support future flood control projects that will help stop preventable flooding from occurring within the city.

Leader Christmas drive underway

The Leader is currently seeking donations for its 35th annual Christmas program.

The drive is aimed at spreading holiday cheer by providing food and gifts to needy families in the immediate South Belt community.

This year’s program will focus on local families that were impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The Leader is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying those who were most affected by the storm.

Desired items include toys for children of all ages, nonperishable food items, paper products and cash. There is a particular need for gifts appropriate for older children and teens, such as clothing, sporting goods, makeup kits and gift cards. All gifts should be new and unwrapped.

Donations may be dropped off at the Leader office, located at 11555 Beamer, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday.

The deadline for filing for assistance in the program is Monday, Dec. 18. First-time applicants must apply in person at 11555 Beamer. Previous applicants may register online at www.southbeltleader.com.

Some residents have reported having problems while attempting to apply online, particularly when doing so on a cell phone, rather than a traditional computer. Residents who encounter problems online are asked to apply in person at the Leader office.

All applicants must undergo a screening process to determine the family’s need. This is done through various means, including verification from school nurses and counselors. To qualify, one must be a South Belt area resident and possess at least one form of identification verifying the address.

 

E-mail mynews@southbeltleader.com with news items of interest.

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