In August 2020, the Houston City Council passed an ordinance (Chapter 40, Article XXII) requiring home builders and property owners to install sidewalks along the public streets in front of newly built or substantially remodeled existing single-family homes. The ordinance required sidewalk construction even if there are no existing sidewalks on the rest of the road or neighborhood.
As promised in the initial talks of the ordinance, the City’s Office of Planning and Development has proposed a Fee in Lieu of Sidewalk Construction option for builders and homeowners.
It is a voluntary option for developers and property owners to meet the requirements of the sidewalk ordinance. Builders and owners of properties that meet specific criteria (Section 40-560(b)(1) or Section 40-561) may choose to pay the fee instead of constructing the required sidewalk. Additionally, builders may seek authorization to pay the fee even if the previously mentioned criteria are not met.
The city has recognized that the current ordinance has led to increases in sidewalk gaps, otherwise known as “sidewalks to nowhere.” They believe the fee option will increase the construction of sidewalk networks and mitigate the current patchwork of sidewalk slabs in various city neighborhoods.
The proposed fee schedule is:
- $12/square foot for eligible single-family residential developments not increasing the lot density
- $30/square foot for other eligible developments
The city engineer will determine the fee owed by individuals who select this option. The current projected costs are based on 2022 costs and will be adjusted as appropriate in the future.
The fees will accumulate into the newly founded Sidewalk Fund, managed by Planning and Development and implemented by Public Works. 70% of a builder’s or homeowner’s fee payment will be dedicated to newly constructed sidewalk projects in the home’s geographic area (determined by the Sidewalk Service Area Map). At the same time, 30% will be dedicated to a more generalized fund to support new sidewalks across the city. The city projects the fee will generate annual revenue of $1.8 million.
The city’s chief transportation planner will be responsible for coordination amongst various city departments to identify and prioritize yearly sidewalk construction based on: pedestrian safety, existing transportation facilities, presence of major trip-generating facilities, demographics/equity, and available funding.
The Houston Planning and Development office will report on selected projects’ progress annually.
The Planning and Development office will hold another presentation on the new fee at the Greater Houston Builders Association before the end of the year.