Catalyzing Investment in Urban Sustainability
U.S.-Brazil Joint Initiative on
Urban Sustainability


Special Service District (SSD) or Business Improvement District (BID)

Program Overview

The SSD/BID is a defined area within which businesses are required to pay an additional tax or fee in order to fund improvements within the district's boundaries. Grant funds acquired by the city for special programs and/or incentives such as tax abatements can be made available to assist businesses or to recruit new business. These types of programs may go by other names, such as business improvement area (BIA), business revitalization zone (BRZ), community improvement district (CID), special services area (SSA), or special improvement district (SID). A community benefit district (CBD) is much like an SSD/BID except property owners, not the businesses, vote to pay an additional property tax assessment. SSD/BIDs provide services such as cleaning streets, providing security, making capital improvements, constructing pedestrian and streetscape enhancements, and marketing the area. The services provided by SSD/BIDs are supplemental to those already provided by the municipality.

How to Apply this Program

An SSD is technically a municipal authority and not a charitable organization. This means a large-scale SSD may have the ability to float bonds and to levy taxes to pay off those bonds, a right that enabled the Center City District in Philadelphia to raise $21 million in 1995. Although SSDs can sometimes float bonds for capital improvements, their main functions are to supplement city services and to capture funding for neighborhood initiatives such as maintenance and marketing. In the United States, SSD/BIDs must be first established by state legislation.

Contact Information
EPA's Environmental Finance
There are nearly 1,000 BIDs in the United States. New York City has 66 BIDs, the most of any city. BIDs exist in almost every one of the top 50 largest cities in the United States, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC. Minneapolis and Boston have been the last of the top 20 largest regions to adopt BIDs. The State of Wisconsin has adopted the most for smaller towns, with about 90 in the state, 25 of those being in Milwaukee and the rest throughout the state.