Houston’s Zoning Laws, or Lack There Of

Houston is much like a large puzzle, consisting of pieces sprawled across the board in no particular organized fashion, consisting of a variety of intermingling properties. Industrial properties sit next to hotels, retail lots next to residential areas, and even farms next to franchises. Houston is renowned for being the only large-scale city in the United States that has no zoning ordinance. Ultimately, there are three types of zoning; residential, commercial, and industrial, they are used to control the use of land, manage population, and limit the amount of same businesses in one given area. There are a number of Houstonians that do however believe that zoning would benefit Houston.

Houston Texas Skyscrapers and Lake

Houston is one of very few major cities in the country that doesn’t have zoning laws put in place to restrict land development.

Those that are against zoning believe it protects property rights, puts residents in close vicinity to both work and shopping centers, drops housing, business, and consumer costs, plus alleviates potential tax costs that would be involved with zoning.

Those that are pro-zoning believe it would protect neighborhoods, provide control over distribution of land, increase home value by monitoring the size of businesses in particular areas, and protect endangered environmental land.

It was in 1993, after being up for vote three times that zoning was defeated, the ongoing battle came down to the right to private property rights. It is a widespread concept that zoning merely allows public officials and organizations to dip into property and exploit it to their advantage while not thinking twice about the impact on surrounding neighborhoods, shops, and businesses. In fact, Houston is an attractive city for many, due to its affordable housing costs. Since there is no land designated for commercial or residential purposes, there is not a limited area where housing can spring up. In addition, when compared to other cities the non-zoning city proves that it can function productively without the presence of a land organization. When zoning was enforced in cities such as Austin a rise in the cost of production subsequently followed due to confusion, ordinance issues, and a variety of misconceptions.

Ultimately, Houston relays an important message as it sticks to being “zone free,” it depicts that regulation is not always necessary, that designating areas for each type of land use does not always benefit the owner or those around. Rather, it creates restrictions on how land can be utilized and how the property owner should have the ability to decide what he desires to do with his land. It shows that a farm can reside near a franchise, a residential area near a retail lot, and an industrial property near a hotel. Like the perfect puzzle, each piece has a different design.


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