Harris County commissioners voted unanimously 4-0 to approve updated guidelines that must be met for projects to qualify for tax abatement in Harris County’s reinvestment zones.

The specifics: Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Harris County’s updated guidelines aim to increase and strengthen existing community benefits and worker protections. City of Houston officials said 28 sites are designated as Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones.

Terms to know: According to Texas Tax Code, a county or municipality may designate a geographic area as TIRZs to promote development or redevelopment, and attract new investment in an area. Cities around Texas try to boost development in underperforming areas by creating TIRZs. For tax abatements, also known as the reduction of or exemption from, taxes, such exemptions can be effective for a maximum of 10 years, according to officials from the Harris County Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity.

Zooming In: The policy builds on changes for competitive wages, access to affordable and quality health care, and safety training, and encourages minority- and women-owned businesses to participate in developing new projects in TIRZ areas. According to DEEO documents, the policy updates will:

  • Incentivize businesses to reduce carbon emissions, develop new technologies to address climate concerns
  • Create job opportunities that require at least 50% of new hires at a project location to be Harris County residents. For each project site, a minimum of 25 new full-time permanent positions must be created
  • Require that full-time employees be paid a fair wage and offered affordable health care plans
  • Mandate incentivized projects include a Fair Chance Hiring plan that would mean residents who may have a state criminal history do not have to disclose it on their job application
  • Prevents contractors with Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations from working on projects
  • Prohibits contractors with outstanding wage theft claims or a recent history of wage thefts

Quote of note: “We have a responsibility to promote equitable economic growth and shared prosperity. When companies get a break, our communities should benefit, too,” Ellis said in a news release.