Rice Study: Houston Needs Better Land-Use Rules

A Rice University report says Houston needs to review and revise its planning regulation – and the findings have additional context in an era of Harvey recovery.

Land-use policies -- and their consequences – are the subject of “Developing Houston: Land-Use Regulation in the ‘Unzoned City’ and its Outcomes” by Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

Although Houston is not quite the "unzoned city" that many claim, the report suggests that its land-use regulation is incomplete and needs attention.

Kyle Shelton of the Kinder Institute tells Newsradio 740 KTRH that one-size-fits-all guidelines don't work, and that while Houston “has nibbled around the edges” with issues like specific neighborhood planning, it’s time for land-use regulations that’s flexible and has opt-out features for developers.

The need takes on new importance in an era of Harvey recovery, he said.

Kyle Shelton says regulations need to be adaptable as the city recovers ... and builders should have to opt out of rules, rather than “opt-in” as desired.

“This report shows that Houston already has a system of land-development regulations in place and that together they mirror most major elements of other cities’ zoning codes,” Shelton says. “It also shows, though, that those regulations are often not flexible enough to meet the needs of different communities or to help achieve development goals of the city overall.”

In the context of Hurricane Harvey recovery, Shelton says, the findings here suggest that the city will need to alter its planning regulations in ways that can help communities and the entire city become more resilient.

“A key piece to that shift will be ensuring that regulations can be adapted to meet the needs of particular neighborhoods and be accessible to all,” he concluded.

To download a copy of the report, visit http://bit.ly/2jhrUug or click https://kinder.rice.edu/uploadedFiles/Kinder_Institute_for_Urban_Research/Programs/DT-P/DeFacto.final.v2.pdf .

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