Planning & Development

Press Release

Livable Places Initiative Drives Ordinance Revisions to Improve Walkability, Affordability & Equity

September 27, 2023 -- City Council voted on Wednesday, Sept. 27 to update portions of the City’s residential development code that will expand the types of homes that are built to meet the needs of all Houstonians. The changes focus on walkability, affordability and equity. This package of ordinance amendments reflects three years of collaboration with the Livable Places Action Committee and stakeholders across the city.

The Livable Places initiative was launched in 2020 by the Planning & Development Department to diversify the variety and affordability of homes built in Houston. The changes incentivize smaller neighborhood-scale homes such as garage apartments, courtyard style developments and other developments of eight units or less. They also incentivize residential development that improves walkability and creates safer pedestrian spaces.

“Livable Places will make a transformational difference in the City of Houston. The changes approved today will expand the variety of homes at a variety of residential price points to meet the needs of all Houstonians into the future, while still protecting the character of neighborhoods,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The amendments to Chapter 42 and Chapter 26 of the Code of Ordinances will go into effect Nov. 27, 2023, and will apply to development and redevelopment inside the Houston city limits. They do not apply to existing homes or projects that have already started the permitting process. The new standards will not override active deed restrictions.

The changes to Chapter 42 address four main areas:

  • Second Dwelling Unit: Increases the maximum size of the second dwelling unit from 900 to 1,500 square feet and requires parking based on the unit size. Multi-Unit Residential: Brings back this affordable housing type that is small-scale, three to eight-unit apartments with a height restriction and parking based on the unit size to fit better within neighborhoods. 
  • Courtyard Style Development: Introduces this housing option where lots are located around a common courtyard space and do not require street frontage. The amendment includes courtyard space requirement per lot, parking could be separate from the units and have a height restriction so that homes are at neighborhood scale. 
  • Narrow-Lot Development: Refines narrow-lot development to encourage garages and driveways at the rear of the home and requires front doors and windows along the street to better fit in with the neighborhood character and provide better visibility on the street.   

“I applaud all the engagement and collaboration between the neighborhood leaders, the building community, City staff and City Council. Everyone’s hard work ensured that we created a final product that will substantially benefit neighborhoods and the city as a whole,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

“The new standards will improve neighborhood pedestrian safety across Houston and reduce the number of times pedestrians and vehicle can collide in driveways,” said Planning Director Margaret Wallace Brown. “They also increase the distance between garages and sidewalk allowing automobiles to park safely on driveways.

Over the last three years, the Planning and Development Department has encouraged active public engagement through online and in-person community and development industry-specific meetings and presentations, and public hearings. Staff sought feedback through the online forum on the project website, multiple surveys and mapping activities, videos and social media outreach.

“At its heart, the Livable Places initiative was a public engagement process, and it sparked important conversations. My team has met with dozens of neighborhoods over the past months, and we are proud and excited to begin implementing the changes,” said Wallace Brown.

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