The experience of Houston reaffirms much of what researchers already know: minimum-lot-size regulations limit urban development, driving up lot sizes and thereby increasing housing prices. By liberalizing these rules, the 1998 subdivision reforms allowed developers to meet a large and growing demand among Houstonians for smaller houses closer to major job centers. But the reforms also chart new territory: a key element of their success involved allowing homeowners with the most extreme lot-size preferences to opt out of reform, thereby mitigating opposition to the broader reform. Even accounting for this concession, postreform subdivision has been heavily concentrated in neighborhoods that were either middle class or sparsely populated, without imposing an undue burden on traditionally marginalized communities. As planners and policymakers across the country wrestle with the complicated politics of land use liberalization, the case of Houston thus offers an instructive example.
Liberalizing Land Use Regulations: The Case of Houston