Houston Leaders Debate Merits of ‘Conservation Districts’ Proposal

A proposal by the city’s mayor would create a new type of preservation district designed to protect historic structures and slow gentrification.

2 minute read

March 14, 2023, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Critics of a proposal by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner to create ‘conservation districts’ that would protect historic structures and enable infill development in historic neighborhoods in the traditionally zoning-averse city say the mayor’s plan won’t stop gentrification and could hinder new housing construction, reports Yilun Cheng in the Houston Chronicle.

According to Anika Singh Lemar, a Yale Law School professor who studies land use, zoning, and housing issues, “regulating the density or appearance of new housing construction does not make a gentrifying area less desirable and will lead to even less affordability due to the artificial constraints on the local housing supply.”

While the ordinance has not yet been passed by the city council, some neighborhood groups are eager to take advantage of the program once it’s in place. As Cheng writes, “Freedmen’s Town, Independence Heights, Magnolia Park and Manchester could be among the first areas to participate in the program, if it is approved by council, according to Wallace Brown.”

Supporters of the program say it could help communities preserve historic architecture and maintain ‘neighborhood character’ while allowing for new development. Margaret Wallace Brown, director of Houston’s Planning and Development Department, says that conservation districts could be less complicated for property owners by having more flexible requirements for historic preservation that make it easier to preserve older housing.

The ordinance will likely be voted on by the full city council this month.

Monday, March 13, 2023 in Houston Chronicle

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