- Houston is considering lifting off-street parking requirements for two neighborhoods in a bid to make them more transit-friendly and livable, according to Streetsblog. If passed, developers would be free to build in Midtown and East Downtown without setting aside space for paved lots.
- Houston has some of the nation’s highest requirements for parking, with a mandate that developers provide 1.66 parking spaces for each two-bedroom apartment and another requirement that restaurants provide 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet.
- The city’s planning commission is considering the proposal, which already has approval from officials in both neighborhoods. The plan would then have to be passed by Houston City Council, a move that could happen before the end of the year.
Proponents of the change say that it will help developers build more densely, and could be attractive to residents who don’t want to move to a neighborhood dominated by flat paved lots. Jay Crossley, director of the Austin-based nonprofit Farm and City, which is dedicated to preserving urban and rural habitats, told Streetsblog that “the potential for transit-oriented development is Houston is those two places” since both neighborhoods have light rail options.
The proposal came out of the Walkable Places Committee, a task force established by Mayor Sylvester Turner to consider revisions to the city code to encourage more walkable neighborhoods. The committee has also looked at changing buildings codes to allow new construction to be closer together and to allow for wider sidewalks, although Houston’s famous lack of zoning rules means that applying some policies is more challenging compared to other cities that have pushed walkability initiatives. Turner has also tried to promote bike-share and transit in the city, saying Houston needed more transit options to stay "competitive."
Cities are increasingly considering how much parking they need. Seattle City Council this spring passed a measure that would expand areas of the city where residential development is not required to have off-street parking, and eliminated space requirements for affordable housing. As urban residents continue to be less reliant on cars in favor of ride-hailing or alternative transportation, and cities try to promote transit use, expect more to follow suit.