City of Houston

City of Houston approves clear guidelines for reinvestment zones

Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, or TIRZ, are created to attract new investments and promote growth in specific areas. The TIRZ program was created in 1990 and the city currently has 28, but there were never any rules set in place.


FILE: The roads have been repaved and widened along Bellaire Blvd and Fondren Road after TIRZ 20 was created in 1999.

The City of Houston has now put clear guidelines in place for its Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones, known as TIRZ. After almost a month-long process, Houston City Council voted on Wednesday to approve the new policy on how TIRZ are created and terminated, and the timeline of a zone.

Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones are created to attract new investments and promote growth in specific areas. The TIRZ program was created in 1990 and the city currently has 28, but there were never any rules set in place. Property taxes from those areas are locked in and are used to fund projects like sidewalks, parks, and flood and drainage facilities. Each zone is made up of a Board of Directors who decides how the money is spent in those communities and according to the city, the zones make up about 25% of the city's property taxes.

"I’m very pleased with where we are today and I think it has proven to be a very collaborative process up to this point in time," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "There’s been a lot of verbal talk about the financial policies, and even about the Administrative Procedures Act, a lot of talk, but we’ve not put it down on paper – I think it’s very important when you’re trying to determine how TIRZ is to be created, how is to be evaluated, that people able to look to a document and read for themselves."

City Council voted 16-1 to pass the new measure with District G Council Member Mary Nan Huffman as the no vote. A vote on the new policy was delayed three times after council members were only given a two-page summary of the new rules instead of a detailed version.

"I have not had enough opportunity for one, to look at the red line copy that I was never sent," said District J Council Member Edward Pollard during an August 9 meeting. "We don’t have to get into the supreme details of every little procedure of the ordinance, but the big questions regarding the TIRZ creations, the terminations, community feedback timelines – those are things that we should engage within these discussions."

According to the city, the Economic Development Committee held a meeting on May 31 to discuss the proposed policy recommendations at that time.

Mayor Turner stated during the August 9 meeting he hadn't seen the detailed document either and couldn't give the council members a timeline on when the full 34-page document would be ready. The mayor's office confirmed Monday, August 28, that council members had received the document that contains the administrative procedures.

Some of the new requirements include when a new TIRZ is created, a projected 50% increase on property values from development during the initial term and limit the zone to 30 years, zones can be terminated if goals have been achieved or if the TIRZ is underperforming after 15 years of its creation. The city will also evaluate the performance of its zones, weighing out the zones that are not meeting its needs.

Cynthia Neely is a Board Director with the non-profit Residents Against Flooding and a Council Member with the Memorial SuperNeighborhood 16. Neely lives in TIRZ 17, the Memorial City area, and said the city could have publicized the committee hearing more.

"Nobody knew about this hearing, I say nobody, the general public didn’t know," she said, "And even the grassroots organizations that follow this as closely as possible, didn’t know about it."

A statement from the organization said this was not the first time they felt the public wasn't given enough time for input: "This reminds us of the time that TIRZ 17 tried to substantially increase its boundaries with a vote coming after Memorial Day weekend after having just notified the public the Friday before. RAF stopped that effort by publicizing it."

Neely said she's not against having TIRZ, but more time to involve residents and council members should've been given.

"The biggest takeaway is that it's not about the tax increment reinvestment zones, but it is about our city government trying to pass government policy without input from the public and without properly informing the council members who are charged to vote on it," she said.

Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha-Castex Tatum said aside from having a framework in place, the public is more aware of the process now.

"Most importantly, the transparency that is there for people to read these policies and procedures, and ultimately for these projects to be delivered in our communities," she said.

Ashley Brown

Ashley Brown


Ashley Brown is a news reporter at Houston Public Media, News 88.7. She covers a range of topics, primarily focusing on Houston City Hall. Before moving back to Houston in 2022, she worked at WHQR Public Radio in Wilmington, NC where she covered city and county government, homelessness and community...

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