HOUSTON – A year after the devastating passage of Hurricane Harvey over Texas, hundreds of state residents remain homeless after their houses were destroyed by flooding that killed more than 90 people and displaced tens of thousands.
Many of these people lived in areas near two reservoirs west of Houston that overflowed due to the torrential rains brought by the most costly storm in US history – along with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – resulting in losses of some $125 billion.
Randy Alvarez, a barber originally from Honduras, cannot forget how the water began to wash over the protection barriers at the reservoirs, leading authorities to open the sluice gates there to reduce the water pressure, a move that caused even greater chaos.
Alvarez had to abandon his home with his relatives after the water rose more than four feet (1.2 meters).
“The water remained standing for a minimum of about three weeks and the mold penetrated up to the roof. It was a health risk to continue living there under those conditions. It was really tough, very difficult,” Alvarez told EFE.
After living for several months in a hotel and then renting an apartment, Alvarez remodeled his home little by little thanks to the aid he received from the federal government, along with his own savings.
“This effort has to be worth it because I don’t have any alternative. Selling the house as is would mean that they’d give me less for it and I’d remain in debt,” he added.
In the homes near Alvarez’s house, workers are pursuing reconstruction tasks in an area where most of the homes are unoccupied.
On the broken doors amid broken windows are posted flyers inviting homeowners to request aid through Hope Disaster Recovery, an arm of the Cy-Hope charity.
According to its director, Steve Saunders, the organization is a group of 50 civic and religious groups whose aim is to help those who lost everything during Harvey, which hit the Texas coast on Aug. 25, 2017, as a Category 4 storm packing winds of up to 130 mph (210 kph).
Real estate agent Brian Lenihan, who came to Houston from Chicago last January, bought a home in the area because he says that the zone is a source of good investments.
Many homeowners lacked insurance and got nothing for their homes, and with no savings were forced to abandon them, so the banks foreclosed on the mortgages and seized the properties, Lenihan told EFE, adding that his company – Red Oak Property Group – looks for abandoned homes and buys them, remodels them and then rents them out.
Lenihan says the investment is worth it because Houston remains the fourth largest city in the US, with good job opportunities and very low state taxes, thus making it a “magnet for people from other states.”