The lead item this week is a very cool video from Reason, “Density or Sprawl? How To Solve the Urban Housing Crisis”, and specifically starting at 11:38 when Scott Beyer and Randal O’ Toole start talking about the Houston example (video embedded below).
Reason: “The city of Houston gets it more or less right” on densification vs. sprawl, with a variety of housing types. Free market with deed restrictions, but no zoning and no urban growth boundary.
A great video, although I wish they hadn’t shown the beer can house (talk about poster-child for terrifying people about eliminating zoning!) and had used a map less than 50 years old, lol. It didn’t even have a completed 610 Loop on it!
Moving on to this week’s other items:
- “When Houston dropped its minimum lot sizes down from 5,000 to 1,400 sqft, it triggered one of the largest infill housing building booms of the last century.” –Nolan Gray commenting on his paper, “Subdividing the Unzoned City: An Analysis of the Causes and Effects of Houston’s 1998 Subdivision Reform” Abstract:
“Houston is known for its lack of Euclidean-style zoning, but the city still has various ordinances that control land use. In 1998, Houston reformed its subdivision rules to allow for parcels smaller than five thousand square feet citywide. In this paper, we discuss the unique land-use rules in place in Houston prior to reform and the circumstances that led to reform, including the “opt out” provisions, which mediated homeowner opposition to substantial increases in housing density. We then analyze the effects of reform. After relief from large lot requirements, post-reform development activity was heavily concentrated in middle-income, less dense, underbuilt neighborhoods.”
Can Texas-Style, Affordable Development Work Nationwide? Municipal utility districts seem to work in the Lone Star State. They have increased the housing supply, using lighter regulations, resulting in downward pressure on costs. Now, they may be catching on elsewhere.
This piece first appeared at Houston Strategies.
Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.
Photo credit: video poster shot from the Reason video