Houstons Land Use Policy

Houston is a large city with very unique qualities that most cities cannot even begin to understand, but is this just Houstonian pride talking? No, actually one of the unique qualities that Houston has is how we handle our land use planning. Houston is well known for not having any zoning ordinances, which has become a well-known topic for a while now. People argue weather our lack of zoning is chaotic, unorthodox, or independent and distinct. Another unique quality that we have is where our political culture stands. Dr. Elazar’s “Individualistic – Traditionalistic” study of political culture talks about three categories moralistic, individualistic, and traditionalistic, which entails what category Texas falls in and why. This study of Political culture can help relate to reasons why Houston lacks at land use planning and whether it is for the best or worse. The land use planning in Houston is different from other cities because we don’t have zoning ordinance, meaning that we can have for example “the fanciest restaurant in town right next to a tattoo parlor…” ,UH of Architecture Dean Patricia Oliver.

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Other cities have a different system that involves color-coded maps that let people know where and what they can and can’t have in those properties. Cities that have regulations do it because they believe that if the government doesn’t tell them what to do with the land it would be chaotic. Houston, on the other hand thinks that property owners decide what works best for their property not the government. Even though everything seems unrestricted in Houston we do have a form of organizing certain areas like neighborhoods with “deed restrictions” where owners voluntarily agree to certain restrictions when they buy property. We also have “property rights” which means that one the government cannot tell you what to do with your land. Due to the system that Houston uses to administer the land use, most housing becomes affordable an example is also the way Houston evaded the real estate bubble. The broader picture to Houston is that it comes from the biggest state in the U.S, Texas.

Texas has a vast amount of people and within these people there are different types of mindsets but there are also similar ones things like this are what describe are Political culture which the book, Texas Politics 12th edition, defines it as a shared system of values, beliefs and habits of behavior with regard about politics. Dr. Elazar describes political culture as everyone being impacted by the beliefs and values of the dominant groups in society; these groups can range in between three categories of political culture moralistic, Individualistic, and traditionalistic. According to the book, moralistic political culture is when citizens understand the state and the nation as commonwealths designed to further the shared interest of everyone. In Individualistic political culture, citizens understand the state and the nation as marketplaces in which people strive to better their personal welfare, citizen participation is encouraged. In Traditionalistic political culture, citizens technically believe in democracy, but emphasize respect to elite rule within a hierarchal society and citizen participation is not encouraged.

Texas stands right in between Individualistic and Traditionalistic in the scale of political culture. Texas is a midpoint between individualistic and traditionalistic; some people think that there is a correlation between the zoning and the political culture in Houston, Texas. Research has shown that the state has a very strong business oriented perspective which means they’re more open to the ideas of the public, Individualistic. This explains how in Houston we don’t have the government tell us where we can do with our property we can put any business where we please. The traditionalistic culture in Texas comes from the way the elite groups are the ones that rule, this idea is active through the projection of restriction with “deed restrictions” and “Property rights” where the majority choose what they want or only approve of government activity if they favor to their likings.

The land use planning in Houston is unique compared to other cities in the U.S. We have no zoning restrictions meaning we chose where we want are properties and what we do with them. The only exception is when the majority of people make a decision on what can happen on a certain area like a neighborhood. The political culture of Texas, which is in between individualistic and traditionalistic and it is portrayed in the land use planning in Houston.

Newell, Charldean, David F. Prindle, and James W. Riddlesperger. “Texas Political Culture.”Texas Politics. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print. Teas, Anderew. “HCC Eagle Online: Login to the Site.” HCC Eagle Online: Login to the Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.

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