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Coalition Wants Tax Abatements To Require Help For Houston Economy

A coalition of groups wants the City of Houston to require more jobs when it awards tax abatements. A new study from the Texas Organizing Project says Houston is missing an opportunity by not requiring more from companies getting tax breaks.

The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development works to attract business owners into relocating or expanding their companies in Houston. One of the tools used is tax abatements. But a new report from the Texas Organizing Project says in 39 tax deals over a dozen years, the city hasn’t required much in return. Raymond Brackens with TOP says the city should include specific requirements to help communities.

“Based on the findings on this report, that means passing a strong financial policies ordinance that requires all developers receiving tax breaks from the city (to) pay family-sustaining wages, and include affordable housing on residential development.”

According to the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development website, projects that qualify for a tax abatement must retain or create at least 25 permanent jobs throughout the years of the agreement. But Laura Perez-Boston with TOP says the job creation requirement often is not enforced.

“And more than half — 56 percent of the projects — include no commitment to create even one job.”

Perez-Boston says if they don’t create jobs, most abatements are just a windfall for the private sector. We reached out to the mayor’s office, but didn’t hear back by deadline.

This story originally appeared 7/6/2017 on Houston Public Media.