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Fort Worth City Council looks to stop letting developers opt out of affordable housing

Fort Worth council members listen to public comments during their evening meeting, Oct. 17, 2023.
Sandra Sadek
Fort Worth Report
Fort Worth council members listen to public comments during their evening meeting, Oct. 17, 2023.

Developers soon won’t be able to opt out of building affordable housing if an amendment is approved by City Council at its upcoming Jan. 23 meeting.

Fort Worth is looking to amend its code to remove the opt-out option for developers and encourage the construction of more affordable housing in Neighborhood Empowerment Zones, distressed areas where the city works to promote economic development and social services in the city core.

City ordinance currently offers incentive packages for developers looking to build in these zones by requiring them to either set aside 20% of the proposed units for low-income tenants or pay $200 per unit for five years to the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corp. to opt out.

But in past years, more developers have chosen to pay the meager fee rather than designate a portion of their units as affordable. Staff is confident this change, if approved, will not discourage development and instead will bring more units, said Victor Turner, director of the city’s Neighborhood Services Department.

What is a tax abatement?

Tax abatements are agreements between a city, county or special district and taxpayers that exempt the taxpayer from paying some or all taxes for up to 10 years. These agreements are often used as economic development tools to attract new projects or retain existing businesses.

Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said this change will help prevent the segregation of neighborhoods by income.

“Concentrating poverty never proves to be a good solution and therefore, by integrating the affordable into the market rate, we create opportunities for lower-income families to prosper,” Costa said.

The city’s Neighborhood Quality and Revitalization Committee explored increasing the opt-out fees from $200 per unit to $650 per unit back in October. A recommendation was made at the committee’s Dec. 12 meeting to get rid of the payment in lieu of affordable units.

If this amendment is approved by the City Council on Jan. 23, it will go into effect immediately. Applications already in the process would not be affected by this change.

“Gentrification is something that a lot of these neighborhoods are concerned with and by ensuring there’s an affordable component, it’s a protective measure in that we’re not going to allow developers to come in and buy out the affordable component of that and erect something that prices the rest of the neighborhood out,” said council member Elizabeth Beck, who serves on the neighborhood committee.

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.