The Department of Neighborhoods was established by Mayor Annise Parker August 10, 2011, and consolidated several city operations focused on reducing blight and making neighborhoods cleaner and safer in an efficient, fiscally responsible manner. DON was created to provide an efficient and effective reorganization of many divisions that were previously dispersed throughout the City organization, with the result being a "one-stop-shop" for accessing City services and resolving neighborhood issues. City Council approved an ordinance on February 9, 2011, amending Chapters 1, 10, 28 and 34 of the Code of Ordinances pertaining to dangerous and substandard buildings. The ordinance took effect on May 9, 2011, directed primarily to Chapter 10 and providing for the removal of the Houston Police Department’s Neighborhood Protection Corps. These actions led to the creation of the Department of Neighborhoods and its Inspections & Public Service division, charged with city code enforcement operations formerly conducted by the Neighborhood Protection Corps. Mayor Annise Parker appointed the following directors during her term: Catherine Flowers (2011- 2012) and Katye Tipton (2012-2016).
The department initially included the following divisions:
- City of Houston Inspection & Public Services (CHIPS) - formerly Neighborhood Protection Corps- Enforces Chapter 10 of the Code of Ordinances related to open/vacant buildings, nuisances on private property, junk motor vehicles, weeded lots, graffiti; 3 internal divisions: Inspections, Hearings, and Prevention & Redevelopment
- Mayor's Anti-Gang Office (MAGO) - Develops and implements programs that provide: case management, counseling, court‐based assessment, gang education and awareness training, job readiness training, truancy reduction, victims’ assistance information and referrals; Utilizes three strategies: prevention, intervention, and suppression.
- Mayor's Citizens' Assistance Office (MCAO) - Established in 1974; coordinates responses and resolutions to community concerns; Coordinates community involvement for voluntary compliance with Chapter 10 violations; Handles requests for City services, individual referrals, and field investigations; Promotes neighborhood revitalization efforts through community outreach activities; Aids with creating civic organizations.
- Mayor's Office of Education Initiatives - Expectation Graduation – Reach Out to Dropouts Walk: The office works with HISD and other area ISDs to help non‐enrolled students complete high school; After School Zones Partnership with Houston Public Library and Volunteer Initiatives: Developed a pilot program to offer mentoring and college/career guidance at libraries and after school program; College/Career Prep Partnerships: Partners with private, non‐profit & governmental organizations to offer students out of school learning opportunities that supports college and career preparation (EX. workshops, job shadows, etc.)
- Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) - Provides and participates in programs and services which address the needs and rights of those with disabilities; Facilitates delivery of services; acts as a liaison to the Houston Commission on Disabilities, City Council, and other City departments; Makes policy and legislative recommendations; Establishes partnerships to promote community awareness; Coordinates the Mayor’s Disability Advocate of the Year Award (MDAYA)
- Mayor's Office of Immigration & Refugee Affairs (MOIRA) - MOIRA brings together international communities in Houston by promoting their well‐being, connectedness and facilitating their successful civic, economic, and cultural integration; Established in 2001 to encourage good citizenship and facilitate integration of immigrant and refugee communities living in the city.
- Mayor's Volunteer Initiatives Program (VIP) - Launched in 2004 to engage residents in civic service; annually places 3,000‐5,000 volunteers within various City departments; On February 3, 2010, Mayor Parker joined the Cities of Service Coalition, a bipartisan coalition of mayors who have committed to work together to lead a multi‐year effort to expand impact volunteerism; HoustonSERVICE.org, a Cities of Service initiative, enables non‐profits profits, faith‐based organizations, and universities in the Houston area to post volunteer opportunities free of charge.
TaKasha L. Francis was appointed by Mayor Sylvester Turner and unanimously confirmed by City Council as director March 25, 2016. Upon her appointment, a new vision and direction was established under the following principles called “S.U.P.E.R”- Service, Unity, Professionalism, Excellence, Responsiveness. Mayor Turner expressed a desire to move back to a decentralized model and remove select divisions from the department so that they can focus more on enforcing neighborhood regulations and working closely with homeowners to resolve complaints. In 2016 Mayor Turner moved the Mayor's Office of Education Initiatives back to the Mayor’s Office and followed suit with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities in 2017. Later that year, the Mayor's Office of Immigration & Refugee Affairs was renamed The Office of New Americans and Immigrant Communities to distinguish our office from the city’s Office of Trade and International Affairs to better reflect the immigrant and refugee population served and goals of the office. In 2020, the Mayor’s Citizens' Assistance Office was renamed Mayor’s Assistance Office to be more inclusive, recognizing that all Houstonians aren’t “citizens’ and our services are for every Houstonian.
In 2022, the department developed a new division named Office of Neighborhood Engagement (ONE). This division houses and facilitates programming that brings city government closer to communities by helping residents be more civically engaged through leadership programing, volunteering, grant opportunities, and collaboration with other City and community resources.