An unincorporated area is a land region not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but rather administered as part of a larger division, such as a county or city. A huge portion of North West Harris County is unincorporated, including approximately 96 percent of Texas House District 126. Growth in these areas is expanding at a record pace and has far exceeded growth in the City of Houston. Since 2000, eighty-seven percent of Harris County’s population growth has occurred in the unincorporated areas. The 2010 census found the county’s total population was 4,092,459 with 1,861,463 residing in unincorporated areas. If all of the unincorporated areas of the county were patched together, it would be the second largest city in Texas and would have more residents than twelve U.S. States.
Residents in unincorporated areas lack a conventional city government and, therefore, receive services from a patchwork of agencies and special purpose districts (SPDs), which function as independent governments. One of the most common SPDs is a Municipal Utility District (MUD), which provides residents with infrastructure financing, water, sewer, drainage and road facilities. Residents in unincorporated areas outside of a MUD or SPD rely on the county for a variety of services including law enforcement, road maintenance, park trails and indigent medical care.
One of the most significant benefits of living in an unincorporated area is that SPDs can tailor services to meet the specific needs of residents. In a county as large as Harris, SPDs are a geographical necessity to ensure that the community’s needs are being met at the local level. However, there are very few opportunities for economic development in unincorporated areas because they are outside the jurisdiction of Houston’s Office of Economic Development, which coordinates a myriad of economic incentive programs. This makes it very difficult for unincorporated areas to incentivize economic growth through conventional means.
During the 84th legislative session, a bill was passed that allows specific SPDs called water districts, to accept donations via water bills in all unincorporated Harris County areas. These donations can then be used by nonprofit organizations to provide economic development improvements that help preserve property values. This bill was a great step toward further economic success in our district, but we must continue to build on that success as we move toward the 85th legislative session.
Our district is fortunate to have many economic strengths including a young, well-educated work force, a strong healthcare sector, access to transportation corridors and a diverse range of housing options. My goal is to help drive our economy forward by championing legislation that mobilizes our human, financial, physical and natural resources to generate marketable goods and services. Next session is the time to take full advantage of our strengths to ensure continued economic growth in District 126 for years to come.