Comment of the Day: Aren’t These the Heights Design Guidelines We’ve Been Asking For?

COMMENT OF THE DAY: AREN’T THESE THE HEIGHTS DESIGN GUIDELINES WE’VE BEEN ASKING FOR? “Here we go again with the sky-is-falling BS on the historic ordinance. For years, the builders have whined about how they needed a design guide for the Heights. HAHC takes 2 years to collect input from the HDs [historic districts] on design guidelines. There were many meetings, direct mailings, surveys and even direct invitations from Steph McDougal to have one-on-one meetings with stakeholders to discuss the design guidelines. The response HAHC got from the HDs was that we are sick and tired of builders trying to fill every lot with gratuitous square footage. Additions are fine, but building a 3300-sq.-ft. house behind a bungalow is atrocious. And stop with the BS about families. Families do not need giant houses. They need affordable houses. Every time I talk with a family about moving to the Heights they always say that they have been priced out because everything is so huge and expensive.” [Old School, commenting on June Is Your Last Chance To Make Noise In Person About the New Heights Historic District Design Guidelines] Photo of 519 Heights Blvd.: HAR

13 Comment

  • Thanks, old school.

  • So, Old School, who appointed you the final arbiter of what size house some family not related to you ought to live in? What makes 3300 sq ft so awful? That’s not that much space. More than I would need to be happy – my sweet spot is more like 2500 sq ft, but if that’s what my neighbor wants, I’m happy for them. For the record, we live in a 1400 sq ft house in Timbergrove. It’s livable, but it’s not optimal, and more space, with closets, would be great.

    How about some guidelines that let owners build nicely integrated additions that look like they’ve been there since 1940, instead of the horrifically ugly humpbacks.

  • I feel the same way about River Oaks. Every time my wife and I consider River Oaks, we find that we have been priced out because everything is so huge and expensive. And where are the design guidelines in River Oaks? No two houses look alike, or are even the same size. The Greek Revival next to the Post-Modern is atrocious.
    We are sick and tired of builders trying to fill every lot with gratuitous square footage. We are a family, but we do not need a giant house. We need an affordable house. Why can’t we find an affordable 1900 square foot house that follows the same design guidelines as every other house in River Oaks. We just want to live in River Oaks but we don’t want to pay what it costs to live there. The City of Houston really needs to do more to provide affordable housing inside the loop, especially in historic neighborhoods like River Oaks..

  • I’m all for smaller houses–but let them be on small lots as well. That’s the real key to affordability in a neighborhood where the land prices are so high per square foot. You can fit a nice little house on only a 2000-3000sf lot.

  • I keep waiting for the McMansion craze to end, and I’m always disappointed. Why people think they need humongous lot-line hugging homes is beyond me. I recently left Houston and moved back to Cleveland, OH, where ranch houses from 1200-2500 square feet are in huge demand, often selling in less than 24 hours, while larger houses sit on the market somewhat longer. Yes, people need affordable homes with a smaller footprint, but who’s building them? Certainly no one in Houston.

  • LOL!!! If Houston wants affordable housing STOP imposing minimum lot size restrictions. If a builder is forced to build on minimum 5,000 square foot lots, then duh, you’re going to have a big expensive home. You want affordable housing allow for builders to subdivide lots and build smaller affordable houses.

  • totally wrong as usual in the Swamplot CotD. The size of the house is determined by how valuable the lot is, not the other way around. Its doent make economic sense to build a 1500 sqft bungalow on a lot that is worth $500,000, the price/sqft would be way too high.

  • Ahhhhh, yes, the ever “affordable” $600,000 bungalow. LOL

  • Large houses are not the cause of being priced out of the Heights, they’re the effect. With land values approaching $75/sf at the peak of the market, that’s almost half-a-million dollars for a full-sized lot. If you put a 2000-s.f. house on that lot (at $150/s.f. construction cost), you’re looking at $800k. Or $400/s.f. There’s a very thin market for that size house at that price point.

    There are tons of more affordable options in or near the Heights, but they aren’t going to come with 6000 s.f. of dirt. The secret to providing more affordable housing is to just build more housing. In the Heights, that’s generally come in the form of replacing one bungalow with two modest two-story houses. In Shady Acres, it’s usually replacing TWO bungalows with SIX townhouses. There are literally hundreds of reasonable-sized houses (2000-2500 s.f.) that have been created this way in the Free Heights over the last decade. Without them, a lot MORE people would have been priced out of the neighborhood.

  • Interesting that 6000 Sq Ft seems to be considered a large lot. My 1300 Sq ft house sits on 6000 square feet, which gives us a modest front yard and a modest back yard with neighbors squeezing on the sides. I’m not complaining, but I grew up in the suburbs of LA where land was always expensive. We had a 10,000 square foot lot then and were decidedly middle class. For some reason, areas of the heights without minimum lot size do not seem to result in affordable small homes, but rather really expensive townhomes.

  • @Bob: If you have modest front/back yards in the city, that is a large lot by city standards. Sure, if you get out in the suburbs something around 10,000sf is pretty ordinary, but that’s because land is dirt cheap in the ‘burbs.

  • We bought our 1600 sq.ft. Heights house BECAUSE it was on a 9900 sq.ft. lot! We wanted room for a small pool and a decent vegetable garden without the neighbors breathing down our necks! If we enlarge the house we’ll go up instead of out……

  • That design guideline will go to hell when everyone on a corner is subjected to the newest wet election proposed in the Heights. Say bye bye to the neighborhood.