Free Enterprise

Houston: No Zoning, More Housing

Our research has consistently shown that supply and demand is the biggest factor in our ongoing housing crisis. However, this is still a short version of a bigger story.

There is a tendency to talk about housing like it’s a completely unregulated market, but in fact, it is highly regulated. Cities decide what you can and can’t build, how big your house and lot can be, and so on. These regulations drive up prices.

One might say, “So, there’s a relationship between zoning and supply & demand.” We would say, rather — there is a relationship between a lack of zoning and supply & demand.

You might ask, “What do you mean by that?!” Let us tell you about Houston, Texas.

One of our favorite examples in America’s housing market is Houston. Houston is a city that has no zoning. That’s right, NO ZONING. In Houston, you are free to build whatever you like, such as:

  • Mixed use properties
  • Duplexes
  • Accessory dwelling units (ADUs)
  • Small lots

Houston’s approach to zoning has engendered a much more organic approach to housing. Here you see neighorhoods which don’t necessarily look like master-planned communities, but which absolutely reflect the needs of the people who live there.

Houston is full of communities with no shortage of character and options.

Not everybody wants a half acre with a single-family home. Some people want a small lot home, some people would happily live in a duplex, and city halls throughout Utah — and the country — deny these choices to people.

That being said, there are some fundamental misunderstandings about Houston. To get the real story, we actually flew to Houston to speak with Charles Blain of Urban Reform Institute. To see how this interview went down, stay tuned for part 2.