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Houston’s Post-Hurricane Rebuilding Plan May Break Up Jewish Community

Houston’s plan to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey includes a proposal that may break up the city’s tight-knit Jewish community.

Stephen Costello, the city’s “flood czar” responsible for planning how to rebuild and mitigate future storm damage, is weighing a proposal to buy out thousands of damaged homes in flood-prone areas and replace them with green space, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday.

Such a plan would greatly affect neighborhoods with strong Jewish populations like Meyerland, Bellaire and Braes Heights, which lie in flood-prone areas and were hit significantly hard by the recent hurricane.

“If you saw widespread buyouts in Meyerland, that would have, sadly, a negative impact to the Jewish community,” Aaron Swerdlin, a real estate broker from Bellaire, told the Chronicle.

Costello insisted in a meeting coordinated by the local Jewish Federation that he wanted to keep neighborhoods as intact as possible. “If we did a massive buyout, it has a huge impact on county and city’s tax revenue and it has a detrimental impact to the community,” he said. “That’s what we don’t want to do.”

The county has approved $20 million to buy out 200 homes and is seeking $800 million in federal funding to buy out 3,300 more.

Some families in Braes Heights have already taken the buyouts. Neighborhood resident Dora Klaff told the Chronicle that neighbors had been taking turns maintaining the now-vacant lots to prevent blight.

Contact Aiden Pink at [email protected] or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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