A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 30 2011 2:54 PM

The Myth Of Zoning-Free Houston

664821
Houston, TX

Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers

Whenever I talk about anti-density land use restrictions, someone inevitably brings up Houston, where people have heard there are no zoning rules. If overregulation causes low density, people ask, then how come Houston is so sprawling? There are a number of reasons this line of questioning is a mistake, but the most fundamental one is that people misunderstand what "no zoning" means in the Houston context. If land use in Houston were genuinely unregulated, then this Nancy Sarnoff article about possible revisions to Houston land use rules would make no sense. In fact, the city features extensive regulation of minimum lot size and maximum parking requirements just like every other major American city. The specific proposal here, meanwhile, is a mixed bag.

On the one hand, you'd be allowed to build townhomes and other "urban-style housing" outside of Loop 610. That's good. But on the flipside they're also talking about "requiring additional parking in higher density developments." Parking requirements are pernicious in almost all contexts, but especially so when you have a major effort under way to encourage more residential density. The point isn't that Houston developers should build parking. It's a very auto-oriented city, and if I were building homes I expected to sell to people I'd want to include parking. But there's no reason to require more parking than the market demands. 

Advertisement

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Why Not Just Turn Campus Rape Allegations Over to the Police? Because the Police Don't Investigate.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.