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Houston’s Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones: Good Or Bad For The City?

The Houston City Council got an overview on Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, or TIRZ’s, this week. There is some disagreement over their benefits.

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You may have never heard of tax increment reinvestment zones, but there's quite a lot of talk about them in city politics.

Their function is to attract new development to an area. This is done by reserving a part of the tax revenue collected from these zones for infrastructure projects there.

Mayor Annise Parker decided to brief council members on TIRZ's to, as she said, "refocus on what the actual facts are."

One critic of this policy is mayoral candidate Ben Hall. Talking on Houston Matters recently, Hall said he wants the TIRZ money to go back into the city's general fund.

"We have $457 million in TIRZ dollars in private bank accounts while we have a city that's strangled for revenue," he said.

Council member Mike Laster has a different opinion. He said TIRZ money has helped to fund projects like the improvement of Bellaire Boulevard.

"Without the presence of a tax increment reinvestment zone in the Sharpstown area, that part of the city would not have received up to and nearly, we're nearing the near $60 million worth of infrastructure investment," Laster said.

Another criticism is that TIRZ board members are appointed and not accountable to voters.

The city points out that council votes on their budgets every year.

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