Houston City Council Approves New Guidelines For Tax Breaks

The city will value companies which present proposals that include hiring local workers, among other factors.


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The Houston City Council approved new guidelines for tax breaks granted by the City.
From left to right: Marta Crinejo, Agenda Director of the City of Houston; Sylvester Turner, Houston Mayor; Ellen Cohen Council Member District C and Mayor Pro Tem; and Jerry Davis, Council Member District B and Vice Mayor Pro Tem. The Council approved new guidelines for tax breaks granted by the City.

The Houston City Council approved Wednesday an ordinance to adopt new guidelines for granting tax breaks with the hope the measure will contribute to improve the local economy.

These tax breaks, which are officially called tax abatements, frequently apply to developers.

Some of the new guidelines are hiring local workers, creating mid-skill jobs and offering paid internships to low-income students.

Although the guidelines are not mandatory, Mayor Sylvester Turner hopes they will be effective.

"These are things that I advocated for many, many, many, times and, so, it doesn’t necessarily mandate it, but there are things, elements, that we certainly will look to," said Turner at the press conference held after the council's meeting.

Developing affordable housing will also be one of the criteria officials will keep in mind when they are asked to grant a tax break, as Andy Icken, chief development officer for the city, explained.

"If somebody comes back with a program that talks about being able to house teachers and firemen and things like that, are able to build it affordably but they need, they need a tax break for a few years to start off, we are gonna listen carefully."

The grassroots group Texas Organizing Project thinks the key to these guidelines is how the city will enforce them and how it will measure their impact.

Icken says that, since the city must grant these tax breaks through contracts, the enforcement mechanisms will be established in the contracts.

The guidelines approved by the Houston City Council are:

  1. Local and community job recruitment
  2. Non-Business benefiting public improvements, for example, through sidewalks, drainage and public access for parks
  3. Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, which relates to the design of multi-family projects
  4. Affordable Housing
  5. Workforce Housing
  6. Creation of Mid-Skill Jobs
  7. Re-entry Jobs
  8. Paid Internships for Low Income Student

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