Zoning Strangles Capitalism


If you’ve ever lived in a neighborhood with a HOA, you have felt the burden of making your property fit into someone else’s expectation. You may have cursed the day you signed the closing paperwork, but sign it you did. Freely. You probably even patted yourself on the back for protecting your property value. HOAs and deed restrictions are voluntary private regulations that residents choose to obey when they purchase property in given areas. Zoning is a whole other beast. Urban and Suburban zoning restrictions are handed down by committees and are prime examples of government overreach.

We only have to look to New York City where housing costs have soared to $455 per square foot since the implementation of urban zoning in 1916. Unlike Houston, where the price per square foot for a home is a much more manageable $93, making it the most affordable big city in America. Houston has always been the ugly step-child of urban planners. The appearance of “tin houses” in Houston with their inexpensive corrugated siding caused snickering among zoning fans across the U.S. until the reflective siding proved to be an energy saver in the southeast Texas heat. Now, tin houses are prized for their nod to Texas inventiveness and practicality.

Houston is an experiment in overt capitalism and therefore very at home in Texas.

Bill Gilmer, Senior Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ Houston office came to same conclusion in a report that found Houston’s lack of zoning prevented the city from experiencing the same real estate crisis that crippled other areas. The findings supported the idea that zoning strangles supply for housing demands. While Houston has lot restrictions, set-backs from streets, and a Historical Preservation Commission, the city grows organically, filing the needs of it’s residents as they arise.


In a 2014 video published by Reason TV, Victoria’s former Mayor, Will Armstrong stated, “Property rights in Texas are sacred.” He further explained that the lack of zoning in Victoria has never been an issue because economics dictate the building needs of the city. The sentiment was shared by Rice University Professor of Architecture, Lars Learup, “Houston is an experiment in overt capitalism and therefore very at home in Texas.”

The lack of zoning has also made Houston the most diverse city in America according to a 2015 Rice University study that cited the 1990, 200, and 2010 censuses. Affordable housing encourages immigrants to bring their talents and money to Texas where the freedom to strive for a better life includes doing whatever you see fit with the property you own.

Freedom and capitalism working together as intended to further the dreams of hard-working Texans. And we are all Texans. No matter how far we’ve traveled to be here, we’ve chosen this land beneath our feet to plant the seeds of success and sow the futures of our children. The rest of the world can waste their time questioning the unregulated ways of Texas while we do what we always do; ignore them and prosper.