City of Houston

City of Houston gets rid of fee for residents who request street lights installations

Prior to the vote, a resident who wanted a new street light had to pay the first year’s operational costs, about $200.

A flock of grackles near a street light on West Gray Street in Houston.

You might be surprised to learn that until now, residents who wanted street lights near their homes had to pay a fee. Houston City Council voted Wednesday to scrap the fee that's unaffordable for some community members.

Prior to the vote, a resident who wanted a new street light had to pay the first year’s operational costs, about $200. The one-time fee only applied to lights on metal poles, not wooden poles or lights requested on major thoroughfares.

"It is the City's responsibility to provide safe streets for vehicular, pedestrian and cyclist traffic, and streetlights are a proven safety improvement," said Katelynn Burns, spokesperson for Houston Public Works. "The cost presented a barrier to vulnerable communities. So as part of efforts to make traffic safety improvements more equitable, Houston Public Works proposed to waive the fee for residents."

Council members said many residents in their districts have fought for more street lighting, but the cost has been a problem.

"Residents kept pushing for street lighting that would make them feel safer," said District B Council Member Tarsha Jackson. "This gives them an opportunity to get lighting at no cost."

District A Council Member Amy Peck said the fee was creating disparities where street lights were being placed in communities.

"It was definitely turning into where the people that could afford the street lights were getting them and the people who couldn't were not getting them," said "Even when we used our council district service funds it was hard getting the word out to people."

Residential street lights are normally placed 200 feet apart for driveway and property line illumination. Now, with the fee removed, District K Council Member Martha Castex-Tatum inquired if those requirements would remain the same or not, to allow more street light installations.

Mayor Turner said the vote only applies to the fee, but the city will look into the spacing restriction.

City officials said the fee was a potential barrier between having well-lit communities and keeping crime out of neighborhoods, but that information hasn't been confirmed.