Programs - Historic Site Tax Exemption
Thank you for your interest in preserving Houston’s history. We protect the past with the help of individuals like yourself, individuals who safekeep architectural treasures that dot our city. The city assists these efforts by reimbursing property taxes from certified historic renovations.
Per City of Houston Ordinance 2019-143 application and eligiblity requirements have been revised.
Please review Ordinance 2019-143 and Section 44-5 for additional program details.
- COH Ordinance 2019-143
- Section 44-5 (as of April 1, 2019)
- Map of Qualifying Census Tracts (Harris County)
- List of Qualifying Expenditures
- Application Checklist (updated September 2020)
- HSTE Application Form (updated March 2020, DEADLINE: September 1st)
- HSTE Summary of Expenditures Form
How does this work?
1. City Council designates your building as historic
City council must designate your building as historic. Your building is then placed into one of several historic categories: City of Houston Landmark, Protected Landmark, or a building that “Contributes” to an established historic district.
2. Houston Archeological and Historic Commission approves your external improvements (if necessary)
The Houston Archaeological and Historic Commission (HAHC) approves your plans to revive the outside of your building, issuing a certificate of appropriateness (COA). A COA is unnecessary for internal improvements.
3. You apply for a historic site tax exemption through the Economic Development Division
How does the City calculate historic tax exemptions?
1. If your qualifying expenditures are at least 25 percent, but less than 100 pecent of the base value, then the exemption for each year on the assessed value of the structure shall be equal to the amount of the qualifying expenditures.
2. If qualifying expenditures are 100 percent or more of the base value of the improvements, then the exemption for each tax year shall be:
- For single-family residential properties that are not within qualifying census tracts, the exemption shall be equal to the qualifying expenditures; or
- For properties other than single-family residential properties within qualifying census tracts, the exemption shall be 100 percent of the assessed value of the historic structure or improvements not including the value of any land associated with this historic site.
The exemption shall automatically continue as of January 1st of each year succeeding the year the exemption was first granted for the duration of the 10 or 15-year period. However, the Economic Development Department Director shall conduct an annual review of each property granted an exemption, and if they find (1) taxes assessed on the property are delinquent, (2) the historic site has deteriorated, has been demolished or destroyed, or (3) has been the subject of a Certificate of Appropriateness issued pursuant to sections 33-247 or 33-250, then the changed conditions shall constitute grounds for revocation of the Exemption.
Duration and Details of Exemption
The Exemption will last 15 years if the project receives no financial incentive from municipal hotel occupancy taxes;it will last 10 years otherwise. The Exemption amount will not exceed the initial amount during the historic site exemption.
The Exemption will begin on January 1st after the date the Director of Economic Development makes the determination the owner has met all the requirements of the Ordinance.
If sufficient restoration work has not been completed to satisfy the percentage of tax exemption within 5 years of the passage of an historic site tax exemption ordinance then the exemption ordinance will expire.
The applicant must re-apply for the exemption each year before April 30th with the Harris County Appraisal District. (HCAD Form 11.24)
An Alternative Exemption: “Significant” Historic Buildings
The City provides another tax exemption for “significant” historic buildings. To qualify, the building must:
- Be designated as a City of Houston Protected Landmark;
- Be at least 50 years of age;
- Have more than four units if residential and originally built and used for non-residential purposes;
- Be individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places or designated as a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark or be references as having historical significance in an authoritative survey conducted by a non-profit or governmental agency; and
- Obtain 75% approval of the members of the HAHC present at a regularly scheduled meeting.
The significant historic buildings may be exempted from City of Houston ad valorem taxes for both improvements and land, up to $30,000 per year in perpetuity.
For more information regarding historic designation, please e-mail: Historic Preservation or call
713-837-7963 to make an appointment for assistance with planning your project.
Historic preservation forms can be found at the following website: www.houstontx.gov/planning/Forms
For more information regarding the tax exemption please visit our Contact Us page.