Welcome to the Livable Places initiative

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Livable Places User Guide

The Livable Places User Guide was created to serve as a valuable tool for property owners to visualize the four housing types highlighted in Livable Places ordinance amendments. The Guide describes each type, provides photographic examples, and presents design concepts for a range of lot configurations. These concepts have been carefully put together to ensure compliance with the development standards in Chapter 42 of the Code of Ordinances. The guide includes a labeled site plan, 3D illustrations, and a concise summary table that highlights pertinent design features. Additionally, it offers references to the relevant municipal code standards for each concept. It also includes information about the ADU|HOU Program and reduced parking allowed for residential uses located on Transit Oriented Development Streets.

It’s important to note that this guide does not serve as a substitute for Chapter 42 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, but rather as a companion resource. To ensure full compliance with the standards, please make reference to Chapter 42 of the Code of Ordinances.


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

City Council approved the Livable Places Housing Recommendations on Wednesday, September 27 to update portions of the City’s residential development regulations 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 rules became effective on Monday, November 27, 2023.

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.

More Resources:

For the last three years, the City of Houston Planning and Development Department has been working with the Livable Places Action Committee to amend portions of the City’s subdivision and development standards (Chapter 42 of the Houston Code of Ordinances) to create more opportunities for walkability, affordability and equity. The proposed amendments include recommendations for small lot developments, small multi-family developments, accessory dwelling units, and lot access to public streets. They have been developed through three years of public engagement and technical analysis.

Planning Department staff presented Livable Places housing recommendations (proposed Chapter 42 ordinance amendments) to Planning Commission at a public hearing on March 16, 2023.

Summary of the proposed changes address four main areas:

  • Second Dwelling Unit: Allows this housing type to be larger and parking based on the unit size where deed restrictions do not prohibit their construction.

  • Multi-Unit Residential: Brings back this affordable housing type which is small scale 3–8-unit apartments with a height restriction to fit better within neighborhoods.

  • Courtyard Style Development: Promotes this housing type where lots are located around a common courtyard, and do not require street frontage. The proposal includes green space requirement per lot, parking could be separate from the units and height restriction so that homes are at neighborhood scale.

  • Small Lot Development: Incentivizes this housing type where lots take rear access or shared access to reduce the number of times pedestrians come in potential conflict with automobiles. In addition, these regulations help the redevelopment be more walkable by reducing the driveway widths and preventing vehicles from hanging into the sidewalk.

About Livable Places

There is a growing a need for more, smaller homes for people of all ages in Houston. However, the City's rules make it difficult to build small, neighborhood-scale homes for people to buy and rent.

If we want to preserve our great diversity, culture and innovative industry, we need to act now to address issues like displacement and rising home and transportation costs. The goal of Livable Places is to update development standards to allow for a greater variety of homes to be built, make neighborhoods safer, and better utilize alternative forms of transportation.

We're paving the way for more equitable, walkable, and affordable neighborhoods for all Houstonians.

Sounds good, right? We agree - but we need your help to make it happen.

Key Recommendations

  • Allowing more “missing middle” homes, like triplexes and small house scale apartment buildings, in developed neighborhoods
  • Making it easier to build accessory dwelling units, like garage apartments or “granny flats,” on single-family residential lots when not prohibited by deed restrictions
  • Adding more home options with better access to transit options like bus stops, bike lanes, and neighborhood destinations
  • Improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Reducing parking requirements in neighborhoods with good access to existing transit and bike lanes

These recommendations are based on community feedback and previous efforts by the Planning Department.


Conservation Districts: Approved By City Council April 5

The purpose of Conservation Districts is to preserve, maintain and protect community character and heritage of neighborhoods having distinctive characteristics, cultural elements and patterns of development within the city limits. Houston City Council Voted on April 5 to approve an amendment to Chapter 33 of the Code of Ordinances that will enable the process of creating Conservation Districts in six pilot Houston neighborhoods. Discussions about Conservation Districts arose from and are related to the ongoing work of the Livable Places Action Committee.

The pilot neighborhoods include Independence Heights, Freedmen's Town, Acres Home, Magnolia Park/Manchester, Pleasantville and Piney Point (located in District F, not Piney Point Village).

The ordinance amendment does not create any Conservation Districts at this time, but authorizes the Planning and Development Department to move forward in concert with these selected communities to continue public engagement, evaluate options and begin the district creation process. Learn more about Conservation Districts.



Residential Buffering Ordinance Amendments:
Approved by City Council January 25

City Council unanimously approved amendments to the City Code of Ordinances and City of Houston Construction and Electrical Codes on January 25 to address the effects that may arise when newly constructed, mid-rise and high-rise structures abut single-family and small scale multi-family residential structures.

The amendments were presented to Council by the Planning and Development Department after considerable discussion and hearing from community members. These changes will apply to all building permit applications for commercial properties starting February 25, 2023. Read the full press release.

Click to review the adopted ordinance amendments, presentation to the Council Committee, Proposed ordinance amendments side by side, public comments matrix and Residential buffering amendments FAQ.

If you're not registered on the Let's Talk Houston site, sign up here to provide comments.



Comment and Learn More
In the Proposed Amendments tab, you will find information on various amendments proposed through the Committee's work. Post your comments or questions or start a discussion.

In the Articles tab, you will find various reading material that can provide context and definitions to support and provide meaning to the work the Livable Places Action Committee will discuss during its monthly meetings.


Schedule a Presentation
We want to visit with your organization. Let us know about upcoming meetings or events. Call Suvidha Bandi or Tammi Williamson at 832-393-6600 or LivablePlaces@houstontx.gov to schedule a presentation on the purpose of the Livable Places Action Committee and the draft recommendations described on this page.


Livable Places Action Committee meetings
The Livable Places Action Committee is a committee of the Houston Planning Commission comprised of industry representatives, subject matter experts, community leaders and other agencies who will guide the process.

No meetings are on the schedule.
View presentation and meeting documents click here.

Previous meeting materials

Livable Places User Guide

The Livable Places User Guide was created to serve as a valuable tool for property owners to visualize the four housing types highlighted in Livable Places ordinance amendments. The Guide describes each type, provides photographic examples, and presents design concepts for a range of lot configurations. These concepts have been carefully put together to ensure compliance with the development standards in Chapter 42 of the Code of Ordinances. The guide includes a labeled site plan, 3D illustrations, and a concise summary table that highlights pertinent design features. Additionally, it offers references to the relevant municipal code standards for each concept. It also includes information about the ADU|HOU Program and reduced parking allowed for residential uses located on Transit Oriented Development Streets.

It’s important to note that this guide does not serve as a substitute for Chapter 42 of the City’s Code of Ordinances, but rather as a companion resource. To ensure full compliance with the standards, please make reference to Chapter 42 of the Code of Ordinances.


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

City Council approved the Livable Places Housing Recommendations on Wednesday, September 27 to update portions of the City’s residential development regulations 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 rules became effective on Monday, November 27, 2023.

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.

More Resources:

For the last three years, the City of Houston Planning and Development Department has been working with the Livable Places Action Committee to amend portions of the City’s subdivision and development standards (Chapter 42 of the Houston Code of Ordinances) to create more opportunities for walkability, affordability and equity. The proposed amendments include recommendations for small lot developments, small multi-family developments, accessory dwelling units, and lot access to public streets. They have been developed through three years of public engagement and technical analysis.

Planning Department staff presented Livable Places housing recommendations (proposed Chapter 42 ordinance amendments) to Planning Commission at a public hearing on March 16, 2023.

Summary of the proposed changes address four main areas:

  • Second Dwelling Unit: Allows this housing type to be larger and parking based on the unit size where deed restrictions do not prohibit their construction.

  • Multi-Unit Residential: Brings back this affordable housing type which is small scale 3–8-unit apartments with a height restriction to fit better within neighborhoods.

  • Courtyard Style Development: Promotes this housing type where lots are located around a common courtyard, and do not require street frontage. The proposal includes green space requirement per lot, parking could be separate from the units and height restriction so that homes are at neighborhood scale.

  • Small Lot Development: Incentivizes this housing type where lots take rear access or shared access to reduce the number of times pedestrians come in potential conflict with automobiles. In addition, these regulations help the redevelopment be more walkable by reducing the driveway widths and preventing vehicles from hanging into the sidewalk.

About Livable Places

There is a growing a need for more, smaller homes for people of all ages in Houston. However, the City's rules make it difficult to build small, neighborhood-scale homes for people to buy and rent.

If we want to preserve our great diversity, culture and innovative industry, we need to act now to address issues like displacement and rising home and transportation costs. The goal of Livable Places is to update development standards to allow for a greater variety of homes to be built, make neighborhoods safer, and better utilize alternative forms of transportation.

We're paving the way for more equitable, walkable, and affordable neighborhoods for all Houstonians.

Sounds good, right? We agree - but we need your help to make it happen.

Key Recommendations

  • Allowing more “missing middle” homes, like triplexes and small house scale apartment buildings, in developed neighborhoods
  • Making it easier to build accessory dwelling units, like garage apartments or “granny flats,” on single-family residential lots when not prohibited by deed restrictions
  • Adding more home options with better access to transit options like bus stops, bike lanes, and neighborhood destinations
  • Improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Reducing parking requirements in neighborhoods with good access to existing transit and bike lanes

These recommendations are based on community feedback and previous efforts by the Planning Department.


Conservation Districts: Approved By City Council April 5

The purpose of Conservation Districts is to preserve, maintain and protect community character and heritage of neighborhoods having distinctive characteristics, cultural elements and patterns of development within the city limits. Houston City Council Voted on April 5 to approve an amendment to Chapter 33 of the Code of Ordinances that will enable the process of creating Conservation Districts in six pilot Houston neighborhoods. Discussions about Conservation Districts arose from and are related to the ongoing work of the Livable Places Action Committee.

The pilot neighborhoods include Independence Heights, Freedmen's Town, Acres Home, Magnolia Park/Manchester, Pleasantville and Piney Point (located in District F, not Piney Point Village).

The ordinance amendment does not create any Conservation Districts at this time, but authorizes the Planning and Development Department to move forward in concert with these selected communities to continue public engagement, evaluate options and begin the district creation process. Learn more about Conservation Districts.



Residential Buffering Ordinance Amendments:
Approved by City Council January 25

City Council unanimously approved amendments to the City Code of Ordinances and City of Houston Construction and Electrical Codes on January 25 to address the effects that may arise when newly constructed, mid-rise and high-rise structures abut single-family and small scale multi-family residential structures.

The amendments were presented to Council by the Planning and Development Department after considerable discussion and hearing from community members. These changes will apply to all building permit applications for commercial properties starting February 25, 2023. Read the full press release.

Click to review the adopted ordinance amendments, presentation to the Council Committee, Proposed ordinance amendments side by side, public comments matrix and Residential buffering amendments FAQ.

If you're not registered on the Let's Talk Houston site, sign up here to provide comments.



Comment and Learn More
In the Proposed Amendments tab, you will find information on various amendments proposed through the Committee's work. Post your comments or questions or start a discussion.

In the Articles tab, you will find various reading material that can provide context and definitions to support and provide meaning to the work the Livable Places Action Committee will discuss during its monthly meetings.


Schedule a Presentation
We want to visit with your organization. Let us know about upcoming meetings or events. Call Suvidha Bandi or Tammi Williamson at 832-393-6600 or LivablePlaces@houstontx.gov to schedule a presentation on the purpose of the Livable Places Action Committee and the draft recommendations described on this page.


Livable Places Action Committee meetings
The Livable Places Action Committee is a committee of the Houston Planning Commission comprised of industry representatives, subject matter experts, community leaders and other agencies who will guide the process.

No meetings are on the schedule.
View presentation and meeting documents click here.

Previous meeting materials

  • Front-yard patios: Making neighborhoods more neighborly

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    Article from Daily Hamshire Gazette:

    Want to make your neighborhood friendlier? Consider adding a front-yard patio ... some pavers, a few plants, a couple of comfy chairs — and, voila! instant summer socializing.

    That’s the way it seems to be working in one St. Louis Park, Minnesota neighborhood where front-yard patios have become contagious in recent years.

    Read the full article.

  • This is What Makes Good Cities Great - Alleys

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    Stewart Hicks, an architectural design educator and Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago provides an interesting look into alleys. The YouTube video is entitled “This is What Makes Good Cities Great” and discusses the history and interesting uses of alleys. Professor Hicks explains that “Alleys are the unsung heroes of urban planning and design.”

  • Cottage Court

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    Cottage Court styled developments offer creative housing options that connect neighbors in small groupings. Visit examples provided, by Opticos Design, Inc., that speak to shared parking, 1-2 story units, open space and various different unit per acre configurations. The site shows numerous examples of popular existing communities.

    Click to view the page.

  • Testing new ideas with cottage courts

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    The Public Square Journal, produced by Congress for the New Urbanism, includes an article about how adaptable the cottage courtyard design is. In Testing new ideas with cottage courts, Robert Steuteville discusses how this "missing middle" type can be placed in urban, suburban or rural settings, and as for-sale or as rental units. Cottage courts are wonderful developments with open space, grouped parking and can test new design ideas, methods and markets. The units sit on a small footprint and are inviting to people and families.

    Click to read the article.

  • Micro-townhouses designed for flexibility

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    The Public Square Journal, produced by Congress for the New Urbanism, includes an article about a townhouse design that has numerous advantages. In "Micro-townhouses designed for flexibility", Robert Steuteville discusses how this design enables homeownership, is easier for builders to finance, provides green and common spaces, lends to available street parking, and is customizable based on the needs of the homeowner. He describes the units as "high-quality urbanism".

    Click to read the article.

  • Kinder Institute Urban Edge: Houston hopes more homeowners will embrace housing literally in their backyard

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    The Kinder Institute Urban Edge blog took a thorough look at Accessory Dwelling Units in Houston and our recent ADU design competition.

    For more information on ADUs in Houston, visit https://www.letstalkhouston.org/adu.

  • Diversifying Housing Options with Smaller Lots and Smaller Homes

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    The National Association of Home Builders produced a report prepared by Opticos Design, Inc. The objective of Diversifying Housing Options with Smaller Lots and Smaller Homes is to explore "issues involved in building a greater mix of housing types that bring discreet density to neighborhoods using a palette that ranges from smaller homes, to accessory dwelling units, to Missing Middle Housing types."

    The report also examines regulatory and design options as well as the barriers that prevent these housing types. The analysis provides examples of "codes and built results that were developed at the market rate without the expectation of subsidies so that we could understand how successful a code can be in influencing diversity and affordability of housing options."

  • My Home is Here: Harris County’s Housing Needs Assessment And 10-Year Strategy

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    Harris County commissioned a county wide survey and study to examine the types and prices of homes needed in our communities. The survey, conducted by Kinder Institute for Urban Research, analyzed pertinent data and gauged the public’s perception of housing opportunities. The survey results and listening sessions were formulated into My Home is Here: Harris County’s Housing Needs Assessment And 10-Year Strategy. Released in October 2021, the document serves to guide local decision makers in creating housing policies and strategies that reflect the wants and needs of Harris County.

  • The Cottages on Vaughan

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    This is a case study of a cottage community in Clarkston, Georgia, a suburb northeast of Atlanta. This case study is produced by MicroLife Institute that promotes micro-living and its benefits. They support homes of “all shapes and sizes” that bring communities together, among other goals. They speak to filling the missing middle housing gap with projects like the Cottages on Vaughan.

    This housing project provides a great example of common green space design and has a unique approach to separate parking. It is also climate-conscious, utilizes solar panels, room sized porches, and edible landscaping features.

    Read The Cottages on Vaughan.

  • We Ran the Rent Numbers

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    WE RAN THE RENT NUMBERS ON PORTLAND’S 7 NEWLY LEGAL HOME OPTIONS

    The original article is posted on Sightline.org and is written by Michael Andersen.

    Portland recently lifted a ban on 7 housing types. They include: a duplex, a triplex, a fourplex, a mixed-income or below-market sixplex, a large group co-living home, a double ADU, and a tiny backyard home on wheels.

    Working with Portland-based consultant Neil Heller, a faculty member at the Incremental Development Alliance, the study sought to answer the question - Will any of them actually be built? The study estimates the cost for each new housing type weighed against any proposed rent based on current market conditions.

    Read the article to learn what was discovered about each housing type.


Page last updated: 30 Jan 2024, 11:03 AM