In a short but direct editorial in yesterday’s Houston Chronicle, questions were raised about the need to abate $75 million in taxes to assist downtown developers, when other areas are in greater need. They even mentioned that it could be used for streets, which are terrible.
The latest: Now, when our roads are in such disrepair, the city wants to use up to $75 million of our tax dollars to subsidize construction of downtown housing that’s likely to be occupied by people who make more money than most other city residents (“Sky-high view, no commute calling many downtown,” Page A1, March 20).
Public improvements such as Metro rail and buses, sports and entertainment venues and Discovery Green already provide great incentives for developers to build apartments and condos and for people to move downtown. So do booming employment at downtown businesses and new office towers under construction. Not only is the city’s Downtown Living Initiative unnecessary, this use of property tax dollars to subsidize housing reminds us of a housing lottery rigged by planners. The prize is precious tax dollars.
Quality housing is expensive next to the city’s second-biggest hub of employment: the Texas Medical Center. People who find it expensive to live near the Medical Center could well ask, why shouldn’t they get a subsidy? So, too, could some neighborhoods dealing with declining school enrollment because families with children are not moving in. Should city government use tax dollars to entice upscale housing in those areas?
This is exactly the argument I made in my last post. Indeed, our SW Houston Redevelopment Authority has just borrowed $50 million to do street and drainage projects, while the city is abating $38 million in taxes on downtown residential construction, and is poised to double the amount.
Sharpstown is borrowing to fund infrastructure, in complete contradiction with the requirement of the Rebuild Houston PAY-AS-YOU-GO program, while Downtown gets tax abatements for luxury apartments. Why is downtown, after hundreds of millions in development spending, still not attractive for living? I frankly don’t know. But we shouldn’t divert more city wide tax dollars to downtown. How much is enough? It’s time we ask for our fair share!