Despite these benefits, the recent controversy over the Bissonnet/Ashby high rise has inspired local planning advocates to call for an increased amount of government planning of land in Houston.
Proposals have ranged from a “general plan” for the entire city “based on citizen vision, values and goals” to a variety of ordinances that appear to be aimed at limiting dense developments.
Though planners may have the best of intentions, such planning is likely to lead to higher living costs, more traffic congestion and dramatically reduced job growth.
We can see this by looking at other cities with zoning and planning.
In a sense, American cities have engaged in a controlled experiment with planning, with Houston and a few other cities doing very little, many other cities doing some planning and some cities doing highly restrictive planning.
Advocates of planning say that it will make cities more livable, but the results of many experiments across the country show just the opposite.
Cities with strong planning authority, such as Portland, Ore., and San Jose, Calif., almost invariably have the least affordable housing, the fastest growing traffic congestion and growing taxes and/or declining urban services. In the long run, these problems tend to suppress urban growth and job creation.
The national real estate firm Coldwell Banker reports that, in 2007, a Houston family could buy a four‐bedroom, two‐and‐one‐half bath, 2,200-square foot home for $170,000. The same house would cost more than twice that much in Portland and more than eight times as much in San Jose.
Such huge variations in the cost of housing from city to city did not exist 50 years ago. Today, they are mainly due to artificial housing shortages created by heavy regulations and land‐use planning.
Planning also imposes huge costs on businesses. The same land shortages that drive up housing costs also increase the costs of retail, commercial and industrial developments. Congestion increases the costs of delivering freight and other goods to and from businesses. Higher taxes and more government regulation also make heavily planned cities less growth‐friendly.
The result is that growth once attracted to places like California and Massachusetts is now attracted to less heavily planned states like Georgia and Texas. Between 2000 and 2006, California’s population grew by 7 percent — mostly foreign immigration — while Georgia and Texas populations grew by 12 to 14 percent.