Expanding City of Austin Floodplains: What You Need to Know

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If you’ve ever helped someone buy or sell a home in a floodplain, you know that a floodplain can impact a transaction in many ways.

In addition to triggering federal flood insurance requirements among lenders and title companies, floodplains affect what can be built on a property and how a residential building can be renovated or expanded down the line. Homeowners who seek to build or add on to a home in spite of these restrictions must go through a city waiver process that can be both expensive and lengthy and may be ultimately unsuccessful.

Defined floodplains exist to save lives, even though they can be a major impediment for homeowners wishing to add on to their homes. Recent catastrophic flood events in Houston and, more recently, North Carolina, show the importance of greater awareness of floodplains and also of limiting the number of homes that are susceptible to severe flooding.

As residents have seen repeatedly since 2015, the Austin-area is subject to severe flooding. And this flooding is likely to get worse. According to a National Weather Service rainfall study, known as Atlas 14, Central Texas is more likely to experience extreme rainstorms going forward than in the past. Larger storms mean more rain, which often – though not always – translates into wider, more expansive flooding and therefore, wider and more expansive floodplains.

Based on the results of the Atlas 14 study, the City is re-drafting its floodplain maps to reflect the likelihood of more severe flooding. These changes will impact properties throughout the city and could result in adding about 3,200 properties to the 100-year floodplain, bringing the total number of Austin properties in the floodplain to 7,200. You can see a map of how the Atlas 14 changes are projected to impact properties at the City’s ATX Flood Pro website.

Though the City’s map revisions at this time will not impact federal flood insurance rates or requirements, properties added to the 100-year floodplain will be limited in how they can be redeveloped and improved, as determined by City ordinance. New structures that expand the footprint of an existing building would require a City Council variance, and substantial renovations of existing homes are subject to restrictions as well. In many cases, homes in 100-year floodplains need to be elevated above the floodplain to reduce safety risks.

Would you like to learn more about the floodplain changes and how floodplain regulations can impact how homes can be redeveloped and improved?

If so, join us on Monday, October 15 for our unique member-only event Austin's Changing Floodplains: What You Need to Know. ABoR and the City of Austin Watershed Department are partnering to offer REALTORS® an opportunity to learn, first hand, how proposed changes to Austin’s floodplains will impact residential property. Space is limited, so act fast and register here!

City of Austin Watershed Department staff will be present to deliver a customized presentation about the changes and how they will impact residential property in Austin. ABoR members will have the opportunity to ask questions on behalf of their clients, and ABoR staff will be there to collect any comments you have on important data points for our membership.

If you have further questions or comments, please contact us at: government@abor.com.


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