Houston, We Have a (Zoning) Problem

The following article was published in the Spring 2009 issue of The Objective Standard.

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Houston, Texas, my hometown, is one of only two American cities with a population greater than one hundred thousand that has not imposed zoning laws on its citizens. (The other city is Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston.) Many Houstonians, including me, see our relative freedom of land use as a badge of honor. Whereas other cities have fallen prey to the collectivist notion that the government or the “community” has a right to dictate how an owner may or may not use his property, Houston has substantially upheld the principle of property rights, one of the key principles on which America was founded. And, as we will see, Houstonians have been rewarded for this virtue.

But although Houston has, to date, avoided a comprehensive, full-fledged zoning plan, over the past three decades the city has gradually enacted measures such as billboard restrictions, preservation ordinances, landscaping ordinances, and other controls on land use—measures that, if not stopped and reversed, will ultimately add up to a full-fledged zoning plan. In other words, Houston, the city famous for its absence of zoning, has a zoning problem. Read more

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