Subdividing the Unzoned City: An Analysis of the Causes and Effects of Houston’s 1998 Subdivision Reform

Journal of Planning Education and Research, Forthcoming

33 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2020

Date Written: July 24, 2020

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 5,000 square feet city-wide. 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.

Keywords: Houston, zoning, subdivisions, regulations, minimum lot size, reforms

JEL Classification: R52, R31, R38

Suggested Citation

Gray, M. Nolan and Millsap, Adam, Subdividing the Unzoned City: An Analysis of the Causes and Effects of Houston’s 1998 Subdivision Reform (July 24, 2020). Journal of Planning Education and Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3659870 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3659870

M. Nolan Gray

Independent ( email )

Adam Millsap (Contact Author)

Charles Koch Institute ( email )

Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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