Neighborhood Empowerment Zone changes approved

The Fort Worth City Council, at its Jan. 29 meeting, approved several changes in Neighborhood Empowerment Zones (NEZ).

The changes implemented the recommendations of a recent NEZ study.

Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa said the greatest significance of the amendments will be to orient the NEZ program more closely around the development of affordable housing and the revitalization of distressed neighborhoods, while ensuring that NEZ incentives – for example, five-year tax abatements and development fee waivers – apply only to projects that would be economically infeasible but for the incentives.

“The (new) NEZ areas would add some distressed neighborhoods, such as Las Vegas Trail and Ash Crescent, but would drop other areas that have become prosperous in recent years,” Costa said.

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The council adopted amendments to the NEZ program basic incentives and tax abatement policy, amendments to the program’s administrative procedures and policy statement.

Council also adopted a resolution to dissolve and terminate 20 NEZ and adopted an ordinance to eliminate the corresponding 20 Neighborhood Empowerment Reinvestment Zones (NERZ). Then, following a public hearing, they established six new NEZ and NERZ in council districts 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9.

Criteria to qualify includes:

*Promotes the creation of affordable housing in the zone.

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*Promotes an increase in economic development in the zone.

*Promotes an increase in the quality of social services, education, or public safety provided to residents in the zone; or the rehabilitation of affordable housing in the zone.

*Meets the criteria for a reinvestment zone.

*Be 100 percent Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) eligible.

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*Be bounded by clearly defined boundaries (streets, railroads, creeks or other logical boundaries).

*May encompass an existing neighborhood or several neighborhoods.

*Have a concentration of population at or below poverty level.

*Have a low median household income and per capita income.

*Contain a predominance of substandard homes/aged housing stock.

*Have a higher than average vacancy rate.

*Have a higher than average rate of crimes against persons or property.

*Have low commercial permit values.

*May contain areas targeted for revitalization.

“The primary purpose is to clean up exisiting NEZs that have already achieved their purpose in order to free up city capacity to implement new NEZs in areas in need of stimulus,” District 2 Councilman Carlos Flores said.