Are Houston's Land Use Relationships Unique?

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The city of Houston, Texas has been at the heart of a long-running debate in the United States on government’s proper role in the land development process. As the only large American city that never adopted a city-wide zoning ordinance, Houston is often cited as an example for why more or less government planning is needed. Some authors claim that Houston is an outlier when it comes to land use relationships, with strange land use juxtapositions quite prevalent. Other authors argue that zoning is largely redundant to market forces and that Houston’s land use relationships are not all that different from zoned cities. The purpose of this study is to inform this ongoing debate by undertaking a quantitative analysis of land use relationships across large American cities to determine if Houston’s are distinctive. The study develops several metrics to quantify land use relationships and uses principal component analysis to determine if Houston is an outlier. The findings indicate that Houston’s land use relationships are not substantially different from those of zoned cities.