Theses Master's

Houston: Planning for Urban Life without Zoning

Logan, Kirk

Houston, Texas is famous for a number of reasons, but within the field of urban planning it is infamous for not having zoning or a comprehensive plan. Houston challenges the popular belief that a city must have zoning to achieve desirable planning goals. It challenges this belief, because the city does manage to achieve economic growth and housing affordability both of which are common goals of the planning profession. This thesis analyzes how Houston has achieved desirable planning outcomes without zoning?

In short, the answer is Houston’s method of land use regulation solves the nature of the problem that zoning is intended to solve, but uses a bottom-up approach as opposed to a top-down approach. Zoning and Houston’s method of land use regulation are a response to the inability of cities to overcome the problem of collective action in the wake of market failures. To establish this relationship, first, we will consider the purpose and function of traditional zoning. Then we will look at Houston’s approach and how it deviates from this established norm. Next, a case study will be presented, followed by a discussion comparing the advantages and disadvantages to each approach. The conclusion will cover what lessons can be learned from Houston’s land management strategy and what future research questions logically follow from the research of this thesis.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
King, David Andrew
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
September 28, 2015