The City of Houston’s Industrial Development Authority called on the Houston City Council on Monday to consider enacting financial incentives to drive housing construction.

Brad Rees, representing the group, said the move would spark population growth and result in additional economic activity.

Rees cited census figures that show a slight decline in the town’s population over the last 50 years. In 1970, the tally was 2,178. By 2020, the number was estimated at 2,079. Notable exceptions in south-central Missouri were Mountain Grove and Mountain View, which saw jumps of about 1,000 and 1,200, respectively.

Rees said the IDA favored a cash payment for housing starts rather than some type of property tax waiver, a break on utility hookups or similar smaller incentives.

He suggested that the six-member council consider the financial incentive as part of its 2022 budget deliberations that are underway and promote it extensively. He favored a simple process with little regulations, much like that in place in Harrison, Ark. In this area, Lebanon also has an incentive. Information about both community’s efforts were given to the council as part of its study. Rees also asked the council members to look within their wards for vacant lots that might be used as part of the housing effort.

The council may also look at rental property construction. Rental demand is strong in Houston. A triplex on North Grand Avenue is already rented before a roof is on it, the council heard. The council will engage a Kansas City firm, Gilmore Bell, to look at possible incentives. It is a leading public finance law firm.

In other matters, members:

•Approved a $29,640 bid for boring work around the Houston Memorial Airport that is required for its fiber-to-the-home project. It also includes replacing electrical cable underground at Ozark Terrace and install the fiber, too. Don Kelly of Norwood was the successful bidder.

•Okayed a Houston Parks and Recreation Board recommendation for new playground equipment at Westside Park. The cost is $50,000 and includes installation and certification. The funds come from a sales tax earmarked for parks needs.

•Will meet next month to finalize a grass mowing policy following additional comments given by council members, said Ross Richardson, a council member leading the effort.

•Authorized a $89,911 contract with Dotson Excavating of Cabool for work along Brushy Creek near its wastewater treatment plant following a 2017 flood that left damage to gabion baskets, which are wiring used to build such things as retaining walls. The work is partially paid by FEMA.

•Approved expenditures not to exceed $91,000 for hardware required for the city’s fiber-to-the home internet system. It marks the end of material costs related to the buildout.

•Will meet a representative of the park board to seek input as its studies mulch around its playground equipment.

•Heard that a building permit has been issued to West Plains Bank and Trust Company for construction of a new branch along South Sam Houston Blvd.

•Learned the City of Houston contributed information as part of a University Extension Program on lessons learned from towns installing high-speed internet.

•Heard that a recently hired parks director has left the position. The West Plains man began duties earlier this month.

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