Transforming Houston: Council Greenlights Progressive Changes for Affordable Housing and Pedestrian

By: Taro Chellaram /Real Estate Articles/Nov 23, 2023

Transforming Houston: Council Greenlights Progressive Changes for Affordable Housing and Pedestrian

The Houston City Council approved changes to residential codes, barring driveways on new small lots in underserved neighborhoods. These alterations, effective Nov. 27, aim to boost affordable housing and enhance pedestrian safety. The compromise includes increased allowable sizes for secondary dwelling units and incentives for small-scale housing. Courtyard-type developments and multi-family units are encouraged, but restrictions on height and parking aim to preserve neighborhood character. Excitement surrounds the potential expansion of housing options, reflecting collaboration among stakeholders. Council members express confidence that these changes represent a positive shift for Houston.

The Houston City Council has recently greenlit a set of changes to the city's residential building and parking codes, marking a significant step toward enhancing affordable housing options and bolstering pedestrian safety. Effective November 27, the new regulations prohibit driveways leading from front-facing garages to streets on small-sized lots in specific historically underserved neighborhoods. This move aligns with the city's "complete communities" initiative. While the initial proposal suggested a citywide ban on such driveways, the approved compromise focuses on targeted restrictions to balance the interests of homebuilders and developers. These amendments, part of the Livable Places initiative, also include an increase in the allowable size of secondary dwelling units and incentives for small-scale, multi-family developments. Mayor Sylvester Turner views these changes as beneficial to neighborhoods and the city as a whole, emphasizing improved pedestrian safety and increased options for affordable housing. The amendments reflect a collaborative effort between city planners, homeowners, advocates, and stakeholders from the building and development industry, with the acknowledgment that adjustments may be necessary as the changes are implemented. Council member Tiffany Thomas expresses optimism, stating that the approved measures represent a positive direction for Houston's housing landscape.

  • Prohibition of driveways from front-facing garages to streets on new, small-sized lots in 10 historically underserved neighborhoods.
  • Allowance of frontloading driveways on residential lots less than 33 feet wide in specified conditions in other parts of the city.
  • Compromise amendments to building codes, balancing the need for affordable housing and pedestrian safety.
  • Increased distance between garages and sidewalks, enhancing pedestrian safety.
  • Expansion of allowable size for secondary dwelling units, such as garage apartments, from 900 to 1,500 square feet.
  • Parking-space restrictions eased for developments with units less than 1,000 square feet.
  • Introduction of courtyard-type developments fronting green spaces instead of public streets, with prohibited individual driveways.
  • Incentives for small-scale, multi-family developments containing three to eight units, with specific parking and driveway requirements.
  • Limiting courtyard and multi-unit developments to a maximum height of 30 feet to preserve neighborhood character.
  • Expressions of excitement and optimism regarding the potential transformation of Houston's housing landscape.


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