Men are born free but are everywhere in zones. Nearly everywhere.
Most of the English-speaking world’s planners have embraced the strangulation of cities by planning—and virtually all the English-speaking world’s politicians have let them.
Men are born free but are everywhere in zones—zones drawn up by planners to fit us into their dreams. Everywhere, that is, but Houston.
The good citizens of Houston have resisted zoning, voting it down every time it has been offered to them. Consequently, while housing in much of the western world has become seriously unaffordable, the city of Houston remains unzoned, and its housing among the most affordable anywhere.
How affordable? Simon White has done a wee comparison for you, comparing houses in middle-level Houston with houses in the more affordable parts of Auckland and Christchurch. As he says, this was “a very sobering exercise - particularly in Auckland where there are very few new standalone 3 bedroom/2 bath rm houses available for less than $500,000”:
Comparison: New Zealand to Houston new house prices
Houston has a population of more than 6million, and was the fastest growing large city in the USA in the last decade.
Its ‘supply responsive’ land use and infrastructure policies have ensured that housing remains affordable (around half the cost of Christchurch and Auckland relative to income). Because of this, Houston households have a much lower total cost of living than other cities, and household debt levels are significantly lower (less than half that of NZ, relative to income). All as a result of lower house prices.
Want some examples? Here goes:
A new family home in Cave Creek Drive, Humble, Houston: US$182,950. That’s just $223,000 in New Zealand dollars.
It is 30km from centre of Houston; 3bedroom; 208m2 floor area ; 511m2 section. Home with 2 car attached garage, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, dining room, family room. Upgrades include: porch elevation, stone accent exterior, 42'' maple kitchen and bath cabinets, 3/4'' granite kitchen countertops, 8'' stainless steel undermount sink, tile backsplash on diagonal, double vanity in master bath, alarm trim with strobe light. Tile flooring at: entry, master bath, kitchen, breakfast. Wall tile at all baths.
The NZ dollar price of this house in Houston is $223,000 – similar houses in the Christchurch area cost $420,000 or more. In Auckland these houses are generally in excess of $500,000.
Comparison: 3 bed room, 2 bathroom houses that at 20 to 30km from city centre (in NZ dollars, taken from realty.co.nz):
( Typical example)
Section size (m2)
House size (m2)
Distance from city centre (km) approx
Total price(NZD) per m2 of floor area (note1)
1. The Houston price per m2 is overstated and house size understated relative to NZ examples - because in the USA the garage is excluded from the floor measurement. Add around 40 square metres to the Houston houses to match them up.
2. There is very little available new housing (standalone 3 bedroom/2 bath room) for less than $500,000 within 40km of Auckland city centre.
Here are some other examples of newly constructed homes recently listed on the Houston market :
A new two story family home in Skyview point Houston:
15km from centre of Houston
3bedroom; 2 bathroom; 189m2 floor area
A New basic single family home in Peyton Stone Houston:
20km from centre of Houston
3bedroom; 2 bathroom; 139m2 floor area and 470m2 section
Specs: floors of lino and carpet, and laminate bench.
A new Condo in a seaside village - Houston:
30km from centre of Houston
3bedroom; 2 bathroom; 145m2 floor area
A quality new family home – Ponte Serra Drive, near the seaside, Houston:
$209,000 (NZD $255,000)
35km from centre of Houston; 3bedroom; 191m2 floor area ; 607m2 section.
Home with 2 car attached garage, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, granite kitchen countertops.
Tile, wood and carpet flooring .