Governmental Affairs & Advocacy Toolkit

Flood Mitigation & Resilience

What Is It

Flood mitigation is the process of diverting or storing floodwaters into wetlands, floodplains, canals, pipes, reservoirs or other conduits to help reduce the overall risk of experiencing flood damage or to lessen the severity of flood damage when it does occur.

Why We Care

Flood mitigation and resiliency is an issue that lawmakers at the local, state and federal level each play a role in addressing, and one that requires collaboration between all three levels of government. HAR is committed to working with other stakeholders to reduce the risk of flooding in our communities.

How It Works

Federal

When it comes to flooding, like many other issues, the federal government’s role centers largely around distributing funding to states and local governments. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) oversees both the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as well as the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant program. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also distributes funds to states, cities, counties and states through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds and the Community Development Block Grant Mitigations (CDBG-MIT) funds. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Flood Risk Management Division also works with FEMA on flood maps and large scale flood projects.

State

The state agency that oversees flood planning and financing in Texas is the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). In 2019, the Texas legislature and Governor Abbott greatly expanded the TWDB’s role to now administer a new state and regional flood planning process with flood planning regions. The regional flood plans will be combined into a single state flood plan which is expected to be delivered to the Legislature by September 1, 2024. The Legislature also created the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF), which was approved by the voters through a constitutional amendment. The FIF program provides financial assistance in the form of loans and grants for flood control, flood mitigation, and drainage projects. In 2021, the Legislature created the Gulf Coast Protection District which acts as the non-Federal sponsor for coastal resilience projects for the upper Texas Coast. The Texas General Land Office (GLO) also plays a role in distributing and monitoring flood mitigation funds to cities and counties in Texas.

Local

Cities and counties collaborate with their state and federal partners in order to carry out many local flood mitigation projects. In Harris County, we are lucky to have a dedicated flood control district, which was established by the Texas Legislature in 1937 and is governed by Harris County Commissioners Court. The Harris County Flood Control District and the City of Houston Public Works Department, largely oversee local flood mitigation projects. City and County projects are funded through a combination of federal, state and local dollars. Other local entities include the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA), which oversees water infrastructure and some flood projects in Montgomery County, and parts of Walker, Waller, San Jacinto, Grimes, Fort Bend and Liberty Counties. There are also local organizations like HAR and Houston Stronger that are dedicated to working with all levels of government to secure funding for local flood mitigation projects.

Flood Mitigation Resources

Disaster Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is flood mitigation so important for Houston real estate?

The Houston region is prone to heavy rainfall and frequent flood events and has experienced massive growth over the last two decades. As more development occurs more flooding can follow if correct flood mitigation measures are not put in place. Effective flood resiliency measures help minimize the damage and recovery of costs associated with flood events.

How can property owners determine if their property is in a flood-prone area?

You can visit FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center to find the flood risk for a specific address. FEMA is currently working with the Harris County Flood Control District to develop updated maps post Hurricane Harvey. There are also sites such as Climate Check and Risk Factor that can assess the flood risk for a property.

When will FEMA’s new flood maps be completed?

The current expectation is that the maps will be released in early 2025, according to FEMA.

What are the benefits of having flood insurance?

First, your home is likely your most expensive and important asset. It is important to note that your standard homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood events. Also, as we have seen with many of our recent storms, just because you may live in an area of Houston that is not prone to flooding, does not mean that your home will not flood. Many homes outside the floodplain have flooded in recent years. The effects of your home flooding can be devastating, and flood insurance is the only way to help protect your home and personal belongings.

Where can I find more information on flood insurance?

You can typically get flood insurance through your insurance company. If you need help finding a provider, the National Flood Insurance Program can help.

How can real estate professionals assist their clients in understanding flood risks?

Providing your clients with information on flood zones and flood risks as well as letting them know about the importance of flood insurance and how to obtain are great ways to help your clients with their flooding concerns.

Further questions on who to contact or what to do? HAR Governmental Affairs can help! Email us at govtaffairs@har.com.

Infrastructure

What Is It

Infrastructure is defined as the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise. Examples of infrastructure are buildings, roads, pipelines, railways, power supplies, bridges, water supplies, sewers, etc.

Why We Care

Building and maintaining strong and sustainable infrastructure is arguably one of the government’s most important functions and it requires communication and collaboration between all levels of government. At HAR, improving our infrastructure is one of the Governmental Affairs and Advocacy Team’s top priorities, and we advocate on all levels of government to help achieve our collective infrastructure goals. We advocate for infrastructure improvements to help combat flooding, improve mobility, increase walkability and accessibility and more. Below are some helpful resources that will help to answer your infrastructure-related questions!

How It Works

Infrastructure Resources

Brazoria County Commissioners Court

Frequently Asked Questions

How does infrastructure impact property values?

Good infrastructure increases property values by improving accessibility, reducing travel and commute times, and enhances local amenities while poor infrastructure can hold communities back due to factors like traffic congestion, flooding and inadequate utilities.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Houston’s infrastructure?

Rapid population growth has led to increased demand for things like water, roads (traffic), flood mitigation, and the general aging of existing infrastructure.

How can REALTORS® stay informed about infrastructure developments in Houston?

Paying attention to the different governmental entities listed above by subscribing to their updates and attending or watching their meetings is a great way to stay informed on local infrastructure projects. Don’t have the time? The HAR Governmental Affairs and Advocacy Team follows all local happenings and would be happy to provide you an update anytime.

Public Education

What Is It

Like many other states in America, Texas schools run on a public school system where schools provide tuition-free education to all children. Public school funding in Texas comes from school district property taxes, state funds and federal funds.

Why We Care

At HAR, we understand that successful school districts mean increased home values, a more sustainable workforce for the future and an overall better learning environment for our youth. We work with our partners at Texas REALTORS® and NAR, elected officials, school districts as well as other organizations in order to achieve our collective goal of bettering public education in Texas and Houston.

How It Works

    • Texas Education Agency (TEA): Oversees public education statewide, setting standards and policies for schools.
    • Houston Independent School District (HISD): The largest school district in Houston with more than 270 schools.
    • Harris County Department of Education (HCDE): Provides education services to local school districts in Harris County.
    • Local School Districts: Other districts such as Spring Branch ISD, Alief ISD, Katy ISD and many many more.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I determine the quality of schools in a specific area?

You can get comprehensive school ratings, demographics and test scores at www.HAR.com/school.

How can REALTORS® support public education in their communities?

REALTORS® can support public education by participating in their local school board meetings, partnering with schools on community projects and events, providing clients with information about public schools and volunteering with their local public schools.

Housing & Economic Development

What Is It

Housing and economic development are two the bedrocks of any community. Some roles governments can play in housing include taxation, permitting or zoning, regulating, and many more. Economic development goes hand in hand with housing because, without good jobs surrounding good housing, a community would not be able to survive.

Why We Care

Access to affordable and quality housing is not only a basic human need but also a fundamental driver of economic growth. Stable housing provides individuals and families with security, enabling them to participate more effectively in the workforce and contribute to their communities. Economic development policies and initiatives can significantly impact housing affordability, availability, and quality. HAR can assist in contacting local and state representatives for any personal issues you may have. HAR works closely with state and local governments to determine critical housing issues that we prioritize.

How It Works

    • The City of Houston Housing and Community Development Department (HCDD) is responsible for various initiatives aimed at improving housing options, community development, and quality of life for residents of Houston.
      • Affordable Housing Programs: HCDD administers programs HCDD administers programs to increase the availability of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income individuals and families. This includes rental assistance, homebuyer assistance, and development of affordable housing units.
      • Neighborhood Revitalization: HCDD works to revitalize neighborhoods in Houston by investing in infrastructure improvements, affordable housing developments, and community facilities.
      • Community Development Block Grants (CDBG): HCDD manages federal funding from programs like the CDBG, which provides grants to local governments to support a wide range of community development activities, including affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and economic development projects.
      • Homeless Services: HCDD may coordinate, or support programs and services aimed at addressing homelessness in Houston, such as emergency shelters, transitional housing, and supportive services for homeless individuals and families.
      • Fair Housing Initiatives: HCDD works to promote fair housing practices and address housing discrimination through education, outreach, and enforcement of fair housing laws.
      • Planning and Policy Development: HCDD develops housing policies, plans, and strategies to address the housing needs of Houston residents, including conducting research, data analysis, and community engagement to inform decision-making.
      • Contact your Houston City Council member for questions regarding city-administered housing programs.
    • The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs serves as the state agency responsible for the financing and monitoring of most of the affordable housing developed in Texas. The Department administers state and federal funding to combat homelessness and provide community-based and energy assistance to residents in need through partnerships with cities and counties that receive no direct allocation of federal housing dollars (Non-Participating Jurisdictions), nonprofit and community-based organizations, private developers, and public housing authorities.
      • Contact your state representative with questions regarding state-administered housing programs.
    • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development administers the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, the Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Housing for the Elderly (Section 202) and Persons with Disabilities (Section 811), Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), and Homelessness Assistance Programs (Continuum of Care, Emergency Solutions Grants, and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS).
      • Contact your federal representative for questions regarding federally administered housing programs.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is affordable housing?

Affordable housing refers to housing that is deemed affordable to those with a median household income or below, typically set at 30% of a household’s income.

What are the benefits of affordable housing for communities?

Affordable housing helps create stable communities by providing housing options for essential workers, reducing homelessness, promoting economic diversity, and supporting local businesses and services.

Is affordable housing the same thing as Section 8?

While related, they are not the same thing. Affordable housing generally refers to housing that is priced within the means of low or moderate-income households. It can take various forms, including rental housing, subsidized housing, or homes for purchase at below-market rates. Section 8 specifically refers to the federal government’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, which is part of the larger U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) effort to provide housing assistance to low-income individuals and families.

What are some government programs that support affordable housing?

Programs such as Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program are examples of government initiatives aimed at providing affordable housing.

Who qualifies for affordable housing?

Qualification criteria vary but often include income limits set by the government or housing authorities. Eligibility may also depend on factors such as family size, housing needs, and citizenship status.

How is affordable housing different from public housing?

Public housing is government-owned housing provided at below-market rates to low-income individuals and families, while affordable housing can include a range of housing options subsidized or incentivized to be affordable to low- and moderate-income households but may not necessarily be government-owned.

Tax Reform

What Is It

By revising tax codes and introducing incentives for small businesses and startups, Houston aims to stimulate investment and job creation while ensuring that the burden of taxation is fairly distributed across the community.

Why We Care

HAR works closely with state and local policymakers regarding tax reform. If there is a specific issue that you would like to see addressed, reach out to HAR to see if this is something we can help advocate. At HAR, we focus on tax reform issues as they directly impact property values, affordability, homeowner rights, and economic development.

How It Works

    • Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD): HCAD determines the value of all taxable property within Harris County, including Houston. If you believe your property has been overvalued or if you have questions about your property’s valuation, you can contact HCAD to inquire or file a protest.
    • Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector’s Office: This office is responsible for collecting property taxes in Houston. They can provide information about tax rates, payment options, exemptions, and any other inquiries related to property taxes in the city.
    • Houston City Council: Your city council representative may be able to aid or direct you to the appropriate resources for property tax issues within the city of Houston.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How does tax reform impact individuals?

Tax reform can affect individuals in numerous ways, including changes to their tax rates, deductions, credits, and tax planning strategies. It may also influence decisions regarding savings, investment, homeownership, and retirement planning.

Who initiates tax reform?

Tax reform can be initiated by various stakeholders, including government officials, legislators, policymakers, advocacy groups, think tanks, and academic experts. It often involves a combination of public debate, legislative proposals and political negotiation.

What is the difference between tax cuts and tax reform?

Tax cuts involve reducing tax rates or increasing tax deductions or credits without necessarily making broader structural changes to the tax system. Tax reform, on the other hand, involves comprehensive changes to the tax code aimed at achieving specific policy objectives.

How does tax reform impact businesses?

Tax reform can impact businesses through changes in corporate tax rates, deductions, credits, depreciation rules, international tax rules, and incentives for investment, research, and development.

Grants & Community Outreach

    • County websites usually provide information on available grants, eligibility criteria, application procedures, and deadlines. Look for sections related to grants, funding opportunities, or community services.
    • HAR coordinates efforts with the City of Houston Homebuyer Assistance Program to create REALTOR® awareness and education of the down payment assistance programs offered by the City of Houston.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of organizations or individuals can apply for grants?

Eligibility for grants varies depending on the grant maker and the purpose of the grant. Nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, government agencies, researchers, artists, entrepreneurs, and community groups may be eligible to apply for grants.

How competitive are grant applications?

Grant competition varies depending on factors such as the popularity of the funding area, the size of the grant, the number of applicants, and the grant maker’s priorities. Some grants may be highly competitive, while others may have fewer applicants.

Public Safety

What Is It

Public safety refers to the measures, policies, and initiatives implemented by governments and communities to protect individuals from harm, ensure their well-being, and maintain order within society. It encompasses various aspects such as law enforcement, emergency response, disaster preparedness, crime prevention, and public health initiatives.

Why We Care

At HAR, we know that public safety affects homeowners directly. Public safety directly affects property values, market perception, client satisfaction, community development, regulatory environments, and ethical considerations.

How It Works

    • Law Enforcement: The Houston Police Department (HPD), is responsible for maintaining law and order, preventing crime, and responding to emergencies. HPD employs various units specialized in different aspects of law enforcement, such as patrol, investigations, narcotics, and SWAT.
    • Emergency Services: The city has robust emergency services, including the Houston Fire Department (HFD), which responds to fires, medical emergencies, and other disasters. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) teams provide medical assistance and transport to hospitals.
    • Community Policing Initiatives: HPD engages in community policing strategies to build trust and collaboration between law enforcement and the communities they serve. This involves programs such as neighborhood watch, community outreach events, and citizen advisory committees.
    • Disaster Preparedness and Response: Given Houston’s susceptibility to hurricanes and other natural disasters, the city invests in disaster preparedness and response efforts. This includes evacuation planning, emergency shelters, and coordination with state and federal agencies during emergencies.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How can communities contribute to public safety?

Communities can contribute to public safety by fostering strong relationships with law enforcement, promoting neighborhood watch programs, participating in disaster preparedness efforts, and actively engaging in crime prevention initiatives.

What are some strategies for improving public safety in communities?

Strategies for improving public safety include community policing initiatives, investment in crime prevention programs, infrastructure improvements (such as better lighting and safer roads), and promoting civic engagement.

How does public safety impact homeownership?

Safe neighborhoods with low crime rates and effective emergency services tend to attract more homebuyers. As a result, homes in these areas often have higher property values compared to neighborhoods with higher crime rates or safety concerns.