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TOP calls for changes in construction incentives

From Prime Property:

Members of the Texas Organizing Project stood with signs across from a 40-story building under construction at Preston and Milam just off the park on downtown’s north side.

The group was hoping to draw attention to the Downtown Living Initiative, a program that offers $15,000 per unit in tax rebates to developers building new housing units in the city center.

Many of the developers receiving the incentive are building projects with high-end amenities and charging rents well above $2,000 per month.

Only wealthy people can afford to live in these units, “furthering economic segregation of our city,” said Tiffany Hogue, a spokeswoman for TOP, an advocacy group that promotes social and economic equality for low-income and working class Texans.


The city’s program, which could result in up to $75 million in subsidies, is meant to lessen the hurdles to developing downtown, chiefly high land costs and the complexity of construction.

The group hopes Houston’s next mayor hold developers to higher standards.

“Our mayor should hold private multi-million dollar developers accountable to real standards if they want our tax dollars, standards like creating affordable housing, generating good, sustainable jobs for Houston families, and investing in neighborhoods that need it most,” TOP leader Bishop David Pittman said in a statement.

See here for some background. I’m not averse to the arguments for encouraging downtown residential development. Downtown is a better place than it was 20 years ago, and its improvement has been a key in the renaissance of Midtown and EaDo and other areas nearby. All that said, this is a lot of money being used to subsidize high-end development, which is exactly the sort of thing that ought to be able to stand on its own. If the city were reaping a full economic benefit from this that would be one thing, but in a revenue cap world, the marginal benefit of another high-end high-rise are limited. We need to pay attention to making Houston affordable again. As I’ve said many times over the past few months, we need to know how the Mayoral candidates feel about this.

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