Buyouts, another reservoir, tougher development regulations, all of these options are on the table for Houston and Harris County after Hurricane Harvey. And many appear to have broad public support, according to a recently released survey from the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs in collaboration with two Rice University researchers.
“Everybody is for everything,” said Bob Stein, a political science professor at Rice University and one of the researchers behind the survey at a conference on flood mitigation and prevention organized by the Severe Storm Prediction, Education, and Evacuation from Disasters Center. But when it comes to paying for those policies through increased property or sales taxes, support drops off for most.
The survey, conducted roughly three months after Harvey hit, reached 2,002 residents across Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Brazoria counties to gauge public opinion on policy responses to the flooding that occurred as well as experiences during the storm. The survey started November 20, 2017 and ran for a month, reaching residents on landlines and cell phones and it echoed findings from similar findings: more people experienced lost wages than direct flooding though both represented large shares of the population, for example, a finding Stein took to mean that flooded homes weren't the primary concern for many area residents evaluating policy solutions.
“This was a bad experience for people of color and people who rent,” said Stein, looking over the results. Black respondents, followed by Asian respondents, for example, suffered the most serious residential flooding, according to the results, while black and Hispanic respondents had the highest reported rates of “extremely serious” economic damage from the storm.
While officials drum up support for a third reservoir and other policy interventions as well as float a $1 billion bond, the survey sought to quantify support for such measures.
And though support dropped off when respondents were asked whether they would be in favor of higher taxes to fund them, Stein said the results actually seemed relatively supportive. In Harris County, support was the highest with just over half of respondents saying they’d be in favor of paying more in taxes for flooding fixes but support declined as the proposed tax increase grew and a large bond would still be a tough sell for voters.
Hover over a policy to see the level of support it had among respondents as well as the support it received when combined with a tax increase.