The City of Houston, TX is launching two initiatives to encourage green development and infrastructure – the Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Awards and Recognition, and the Expedited Permitting Pilot programs. The programs fall under the Houston Incentives for Green Development, which is part of the Resilient Houston city-wide strategy. Green stormwater infrastructure improves the performance of drainage systems in order to provide multiple benefits including: heat reduction, air and water quality improvement, conservation of native habitats, and improvement of quality of life.
The programs came into being after the city conducted a one-year study to identify and recommend incentives to encourage the use of GSI in private land development. The study – which was funded from Houston Endowment – expects the programs to provide economic, social, and environmental benefits – as well as resilience. After interviews with cities with GSI programs, external stakeholders, and city leadership, and analyzing the costs and benefits, the following incentive programs were recommended:
- Integrated GSI Development Rules
- Property Tax Abatements
- Award and Recognition Program
- Increased Permitting Process Certainty and Speed
The Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Awards and Recognition program recognizes and promotes new green development and redevelopment projects. The Program’s evaluation committee has a set format for evaluating projects which includes specific criteria on which the developments are to be judged. Some of the factors include: “location and impact to adjacent communities,” “proposed maintenance plans,” and “efforts for conservation, preservation or incorporation of native flora.” GSI is led by Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office and the Green Building Resource Centre.
The Expedited Permitting Pilot program has the goal of piloting a minimum of ten projects by August of 2022 – with the City working with developers to test, evaluate, and formalize the steps necessary for the review of projects that include nature-based solutions.