Lack of Zoning Did Not Cause Flooding Following Harvey


As anyone who builds in Houston knows, there is no one-size-fits-all zoning code. Houston is affordable because of its deregulation, because of the relaxed zoning codes homes are affordable which allows a vibrant and diverse culture to develop.

Several have stated that because there is no single code, and that anyone can build anything anywhere, that the flood and destruction from Harvey was inevitable.

Which is, of course, wrong. As Mayor Sylvester Turner stated recently “Zoning wouldn’t have changed anything. We would have been a city with zoning that flooded.

Of course you can’t build anything anywhere in Houston and you need to permit your project so there is in fact de facto zoning. There are laws that determine how much land is required to build a home on, residential homes and commercial buildings must provide ample parking, how close these buildings can be to the street and how large the lot is.

In fact, it was the decline in lot size that increased the number of townhouses and other multi-family dwellings. These homes increased the populations exponentially in the loop which increased the amount of shopping centers, office parks and parking lot. According to this article in Slate about Houston Zoning, there are 30 parking spaces per person in Houston.

Homes in Houston were not, nor could they be, designed for the magnitude of hurricane that was Harvey. Builders are required to offset the wetlands they destroy with detention ponds to collect the storm water, however, many are not in compliance.

And if you want to continue to find blame the federally funded flood insurance program is a great place to start. Homeowners continue to build houses in flood zones.

To read more about the zoning of Houston and its impact of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey you can click here.

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