Livable Places Action Committee Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Livable Places?

Livable Places is a community-led initiative to create opportunities within our land-development standards that encourage housing variety and affordability. Initiated in late 2020, this effort will achieve the goals identified in several previous planning efforts such as Plan Houston, Resilient Houston, the Climate Action Plan and various Livable Center Studies conducted with neighborhoods across Houston. Further details about the initiative, including the members of the Livable Places Action Committee, can be found in the following pages or at https://www.houstontx.gov/planning/livableplaces.html.

Q: Who is Code Studio, Inc. and what will they do?

Code Studio is an Austin-based planning firm that is collaborating with several Houston-based planning, architectural and community-engagement professionals to provide the services in this contract. The Houston based teams consist of Asakura Robinson, Jones Carter, Cedric Douglas and the Black Sheep Agency. Combined, the teams will be able to bring a wide range of perspectives, tempered with deep knowledge of Houston, its development codes and neighborhood concerns.

Q: What is their scope of work?

The contract will assist the Planning & Development Department
with three primary tasks.

  • Research best practices across the nation to help us develop the best creative recommendations for City Council’s consideration;
  • Analyze the consequences of any potential recommendations to help us fully ensure that any recommendations work within the Houston context; and
  • Expand our community engagement to ensure the voices of all neighborhoods are heard.

Q: Besides Planning, what other City departments are participating in this effort?

Early in the Livable Places process, the Planning Department formed a Technical Advisory Group. This group includes, but is not limited to, Houston Public Works, Houston Parks & Recreation Department, Houston Housing and Community Development Department, Solid Waste Management Department, Mayor’s Office of Complete Communities, and Mayor’s Office for Persons with Disabilities. Each of these partners will assist Planning and the Committee to ensure that any recommendation meets the standards established in their area of expertise. For instance, when discussing dumpster screening, the Solid Waste Management Department provided expertise on their operations and how the recommendations would be handled.

Q: What is “missing middle” housing?

“Missing middle” refers to a housing type sized between detached single-family homes and mid-rise apartment buildings. This type of building is compatible in scale with detached single-family homes and is typically located in a walkable neighborhood. Most “middle housing” structures have 4-8 units and are two stories in height. The “missing middle” could provide another option for Houstonians who want smaller homes set in a neighborhood, instead of an apartment complex. Houston neighborhoods were once filled with these homes but current development rules discourage their construction. One of the purposes of the Livable Places Action Committee is to examine changes that can be made to the development rules that will allow this once popular style of home to be constructed as infill development.

Q: Is the Planning & Development Department and Livable Places Action Committee taking into consideration potential flooding and drainage impacts from increased development in neighborhoods?

Yes. The scope of the consultant contract includes research on national best practices, as well as technical analysis on the effects of such practices in Houston around a wide variety of issues. Drainage is one of those issues. In addition, any potential recommendation coming out of the Livable Places Action Committee will go through the Technical Advisory Group, which includes members of Houston Public Work’s drainage team. The Technical Advisory Group’s analysis of how development styles effect drainage and neighborhood flooding is part of the overall analysis of potential changes to the development code that this department will ultimately recommend to City Council.

Q: Will any recommended changes to the Chapter 42 Code of Ordinances supersede deed restrictions in Houston neighborhoods?

No. The City has no authority to override or supersede active, private deed restrictions. For example, the City’s development code allows duplexes on a single-family lot. However, the City does not allow construction of a duplex if deed restrictions prohibit more than one dwelling unit on a lot. Any changes that may be recommended would not apply where prohibited by deed restrictions.

Q: What is the approval process for recommendations coming from the Livable Places Action Committee?

The Planning Department will develop proposals for changes to the code with the Livable Places Action Committee and the Technical Advisory Group through a consensus building process that includes several opportunities for public comment and review. After the Committee achieves consensus on recommendations, they are presented to the Planning Commission, which will hold a public hearing and determine whether or not to forward the recommendations to City Council. All items will be presented to a City Council committee prior to going to the entire Council for consideration.

Q: Will there be an opportunity for public input?

Yes, there are multiple opportunities for public input. People may provide comments at the monthly Committee meetings, on the LetsTalkHouston web page and by participating in the activites, or writing to LivablePlaces@houstontx.gov. As part of their contract, Code Studio will create more opportunities.

Q: Where do I go to learn more about Livable Places and follow the committee’s work?

Find out more and keep up with the Committee’s work by visiting the Livable Places Action Committee website and Let’s Talk Houston.