Houston Considering a ‘Sidewalk-In-Lieu-Fee’ for Residential Projects

Developers and homeowners might be able to opt-out of the Houston’s sidewalk ordinance under legislation under consideration by the Houston City Council this week.

Read Time: 2 minutes

January 25, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


An aerial view of a typical suburban neighborhood in Texas.

Allison J. Hahn / Shutterstock

The city of Houston is considering a “sidewalk-in-lieu-fee” that would allow homeowners and developers to pay a price to opt-out of the city’s sidewalk ordinance, according to an article by Yilun Cheng paywalled by the Houston Chronicle.

“Under current regulations, property owners and developers are required to build a sidewalk in front of a property unless the project meets certain exemptions,” according to Cheng. “With the new measure, applicants can choose to pay a fee of $12 per square foot if the required sidewalk construction is unsuitable or unfeasible. The fees would go into a new fund, which is expected to generate $1.7 million a year for the city to build sidewalks in a cohesive manner.”

The ordinance would split the city into 17 areas—70 percent of sidewalk-in-lieu-fees collected in each area would be allocated in the same area. The remaining 30 percent could be used citywide. David Fields, chief transportation planner at the Houston Planning and Development Department, is quoted in the article saying the fee system is intended to balance the need for sidewalk projects throughout Houston.

According to the Greater Houston Builders Association, which has advocated for the $12 per square foot fee, “a large tree, a drainage system or an open ditch” can sometimes make it implausible to build a sidewalk in front of a house. Greater Houston Builders Association Chief Executive Officer Aimee Bertrand is quoted in the article saying the fee will help bring down the cost of housing in the city.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 in Houston Chronicle

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