Certificate of Appropriateness
The purpose of a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) is to help maintain the historic significance of designated properties and to return the significance of designated properties that have been inappropriately altered in the past. A COA is required for projects that would alter the exterior appearance of a designated historic property. This includes altering exterior features, constructing an addition, constructing a new structure in an historic district, and/or relocating or demolishing a landmark or structure within an historic district.
Obtaining a COA is a straightforward process. Click here to see the steps it involves.
Contact the City of Houston Planning & Development Department in the early phases of the development of your project to begin a conversation about changes that might be appropriate for your particular property. The Historic Preservation staff can help you identify ways to streamline your application process, as well as ways to prevent pitfalls or delays. It's essential that you talk to staff before you finalize your design or create construction drawings. Calling early can save you time and money. Contact the staff at 832-393-6556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following chart will help you identify which sections of the City's Code pertain to your property and project.
|Ordinary Maintenance and Repair*||Alteration, Rehabilitation, Restoration and/or Addition||New Construction||Relocation or Demolition|
|Historic District Contributing Structures, Landmarks & Protected Landmarks||COA not required**||Approval Criteria||N/A||Approval Criteria|
|Historic District Noncontributing Structures||COA not required**||Approval Criteria||N/A||COA not required**|
|Vacant Lot in a Historic District||N/A||N/A||Approval Criteria||N/A|
*Ordinary maintenance and repair means any work to correct or prevent deterioration, decay or damage to a building, structure, object or site (or any part thereof), provided that the work does not change the design, character, texture or material of any exterior feature or constitute an 'alteration' as defined above. Ordinary maintenance and repair does not include replacement of historic material. Ordinary maintenance and repair does include the leveling of a foundation in a way that does not raise or lower the foundation. Contact the Historic Preservation Office if you are unsure if your work may be considered ordinary maintenance and repair. **Although a COA is not required, other permits may apply.*Check with Public Works Code Enforcement, Houston Permitting Center regarding additional approval.
Public comments must be received by the close of business (5:00pm) the day before the Historical Commission meeting to ensure comments are included in the staff report presented to the Commission. Comments may be submitted to email@example.com
COA Application Process
A fee is required for filing a COA application. The Historic Preservation staff will guide you through the process and can offer technical assistance in order to ensure that proposed projects are sensitive to the historic character of the property and district. If the application is approved, any plans required to obtain a building permit will need to be reviewed and stamped at the Historic Preservation Office. (Planners are available to review and stamp plans by appointment.)
Projects for which a COA has been issued are eligible for a 50% discount on building permit fees and may be eligible for a City of Houston tax exemption. For more information please download the Economic Incentives for Historic Buildings brochure. Any project for which a COA has been denied is not eligible for these benefits. If a COA is denied, applicants are encouraged to speak with staff to explore alternatives before submitting a new application.
COA Application Requirements
If your project requires a COA, a complete application must be submitted by 12:00 p.m. (noon) 22 days prior to the next HAHC meeting, which meets once a month. Please refer to the schedule on the COA application form or at the Houston Archaeological and Historic Commission (HAHC) page.
COA applications may be downloaded for your specific project type by clicking on the links below. Please refer to the checklist on each form for specific requirements, but in general, an application may require:
- COA general application form signed by the legal property owner
- Written description detailing existing conditions and proposed activity
- Material descriptions, specifications, and/or samples
- Current photographs of the proposal subject
- Historic photographs or other historic documentation if proposing to restore a missing/damaged element
- Dimensioned plan and elevation drawings of the existing and proposed conditions
- Deed restriction compliance, when applicable
COA Application Forms
- Alteration & Addition COA Application Packet (revised 2020)
- New Construction COA Application Packet (revised Feb 2020)
- New Construction (Accessory Structure) COA Application Packet (revised Feb 2020)
- Restoration/Alteration (No Addition) COA Application Packet (revised Feb 2020)
- COA Relocation Application Checklist (revised Nov 2015)
- COA Demolition Application Checklist (revised Feb 2017)
- 2019 HAHC Schedule & Procedures (revised Feb 2020)
- COA Sign Requirement (revised Dec 2018)
- COA Application Fees (revised Feb 2020)
- Window Worksheet (published April 2019)
COA Application Submission Instructions
Applications must be received by 12:00 p.m. (noon) on the application deadline. The Historic Preservation Tracker (HPT) is now live, and from this point forward, all applications for a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) must be filed online through the new HPT system.
Working without a Certificate of Appropriateness
City of Houston inspectors regularly inspect a property to ensure compliance with the approved Certificate of Appropriateness. Your construction scope must comply with the COA, so if you desire any changes to the project after receipt of your COA, contact the Planning and Development Historic Preservation staff right away at 832-393-6556 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Do not initiate any changes without first speaking with the historic preservation staff.
Work completed without an approved COA is subject to possible fines, removal, and restoration of the building, site, monument or structure to its appearance prior to the violation.
The City will issue a Stop Work Order for any project that is not in compliance with the approved COA. Stop Work Orders have the force of law, and the violation of a Stop Work Order constitutes a separate offence. A Stop Work Order can be costly both in time and money.
Historic Preservation Appeals Board
The Historic Preservation Appeals Board (HPAB) is a 5-member board that hears appeals of decisions by the Houston Archaeological & Historical Commission (HAHC). An applicant may appeal a decision of the HAHC by filing a written notice of appeal. Visit the HPAB page for more information.