• Houston City Council recently made Sunnyside a Tax Improvement Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ).
  • It is the 26th TIRZ council has put in place.
  • The money will used for infrastructure improvements.

As a community improvement tool, the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones (TIRZs), created by Houston City Council are one of a handful that are available to help spur local investment and development. TIRZ are special zones within the city that help incentivize reinvestment and raise money for the city though taxes that is driven back into that zone.

The Houston community of Sunnyside was recently declared the city’s 26th special tax zone after a city council vote.

The purpose of the TIRZ is to attack and remedy blight in a set area. They help finance the cost of redevelopment and encourage development in an area that would otherwise not attract sufficient market development in a timely manner. Taxes attributable to new improvements (the tax increment part of the name) are set aside by city leaders to finance public improvements within the boundaries of the zone.

Those improvements include street and sidewalk repairs– critical infrastructure improvements that make blighted areas attractive to both residents and businesses. TIRZ funds can also pay for streetlights and drainage improvements. The zones cover almost all of the city, radiating out in almost a spoke-like pattern.

Critics say that sometimes the rules set down by council outlining what qualifies as a TIRZ are now and then loosely interpreted. They argue that on occasion, areas that are helped are not those which the framers of the code intended.

Sunnyside is a prime example of the type of area TIRZ are designed to help. The area has a high concentration of poverty, and is known as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country. It has flooding issues, too.

“It’s a good idea. We’re supportive of a Sunnyside TIRZ,” said Deborah Walker, president of a Sunnyside civic club, in an interview with Houston Public Media.

“It’s been overlooked for so long, and much-needed services needs to be done in Sunnyside,” Walker said.

But she also echos the sentiment of many others about these incentive programs. It’s not a silver bullet, in part because the area has so much from which it has to recover. And, when starting from a low base of property taxes, an incremental change is a small one.

Over the next 30 years, it is estimated that the TIRZ will bring in $12 million for Sunnyside. It’s not all that is needed, but is certainly a big step in the right direction.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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