How urban or suburban is Houston?


Aerial view of Houston, TX.


“In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Houston’s supposed unchecked suburban sprawl has come into focus and under attack. How urban, or suburban, is Houston really?” asks The Urban Edge blog author Hilary Ybarra.

Ybarra argues that Houston’s landscape of single-family detached homes, big-box stores, strip malls, looping highways, and need for car ownership may suggest that Houston has a suburban geography rather than urban.

However, Houston is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in the country and is very aware of the need to increase transit access and walkabilty across the whole city. Additionally, Market Urbanist podcast host Nolan Gray believes that Houston’s lack of zoning laws can provide more open land use opportunities and efforts to rebuild post-Hurricane Harvey. The absence of traditional zoning and uniform aesthetic guidelines has the ability to create a range of land use and design plans that inspire vibrant urban life similar to patterns of Traditional Neighborhood Development. Gray refers to the situation as “A stressful experience, perhaps, for the orthodox planner who prefers conformity and order, but an exhilarating experience for residents who appreciate the spontaneity and novelty offered by urban life.”

For the full article, see: How Urban or Suburban is Sprawling Houston? at Urban Edge, published by The Kinder Institute for Urban Research, a multi-disciplinary ‘think-and-do tank’ housed on the Rice University campus in central Houston, focusing on urban issues in Houston, the American Sun Belt, and around the world.