The following is an Opinion Piece written by current President of Richwood Place Civic Association, Rebekah Maddux El-Hakam
What is the Minimum Lot Size/ Setback?
The City of Houston allows for blocks and blockfaces to apply for minimum lot size and building line standards that will apply to ALL properties on the block by City Ordinance for a minimum of 20 years. The standard essentially takes a picture of the current block and makes a determination based on what the majority of the block looks like. Most of the blocks with this protection in our neighborhood have a minimum lot size of 6250 (meaning no lot can be subdivided to be smaller than 6250 sq. feet unless it is already smaller) and a setback of 20 feet (from the property line, which is on the house side of the sidewalk)
Why did so many Richwood Place blocks (9 blockfaces) apply for this and receive this protection?
Many of the properties within Richwood Place are deed restricted, however some are not deed restricted. Our deed restrictions allow for the original property to be subdivided and 2 homes built in it’s place. Typically, how we see this developed in our neighborhood is through 2 side-by-side townhouses. This offered us many protections and we were able to save much of the quality of life for our neighborhood. However, having some excluded properties did not give our neighborhood stability and assurances to be able to really improve on developments in our neighborhood and encourage high quality builders to invest here and build one home in the place of one home. A non-deed restricted property can be developed in many ways that are a detriment to the quality of life in a neighborhood, as long as they can obtain permits by the City of Houston. Meaning, if a car mechanic wanted to open in Richwood Place on a non-deed restricted, non-minimum lot size protected lot, they could do so, if they met the requirements for the necessary permits. This is too much of a question mark on our neighborhood. We had to do something.
What impact does the Minimum Lot Size have? In recent years the city of Houston gave us another option. We were able to protect 9 blockfaces with the minimum lot size/ building line protection through the city of Houston planning department and by City of Houston Code of Ordinances. The protection effects use. Only Single Family homes can be developed in the place of a single family home or on a vacant lot, protecting the future of the non-deed restricted properties and those around them. We have seen the fruits of our labor. Property after property are being restored and/or torn down and replaced by homes selling for over 1 million dollars. As a whole, our neighborhood is happy with the majority of townhouse developments of the past, however, blocks that don’t have a minimum lot size standard have the potential to be developed as all townhouses, changing the fabric of our entire neighborhood, removing street parking, adding to drainage problems and lowering the values of the existing townhouses and homes. We know that the minimum lot size has added substantial value to existing properties as it encourages developers to develop knowing that there is certainty in what can and can’t be built next door.
Is my block protected under the Minimum Lot Size/ Setback Ordinance through the City of Houston?
If you live on a block in Richwood Place and are not sure if your property is protected with the minimum lot size/ building line, please contact Rebekah. My contact information is on this site. We have 1 block that is currently obtaining signatures and needs to act fast if they are going to receive this protection. Occasionally there are those who will argue that we should just let developers determine what they want to do and we shouldn’t tell anyone what to do with their property. I personally value my quality of life and that of my neighbors more than what some random developer may want to do with a lot to make a quick buck. Certainty, in this case, has improved on quality. Our actions have, in fact, made a huge positive impact on our neighborhood.
Where is the proof?
Look over the following properties to see what is and has been developed as a result of the minimum lot size. These developments are all a result of the minimum lot size/ building line protection. It is AMAZING to see what is happening with the blocks that are protected.
1853 Lexington- Inner Loop Architecture chose 2 lots to build one exquisite home. This home has a buyer and according to neighbors, is priced above 1.2 million
Photo from InnerLoopArchitecture.com -rendering of corner property under construction at corner of Hazard and Lexington
In the 1800 Block of Norfolk: 1850 Norfolk, Carol Isaak Barden chose our neighborhood to build the Suyama House sold for an undisclosed amount over 1 million
In the 1800 Block of Portsmouth : 1807 Portsmouth , new construction by Yigal Kass with Crestview Homes, 1.4 million listed price
In the 1900 Block of Norfolk : 1911 Norfolk, pending sale, 1.2 million
In the 1800 Block of Norfolk: 1811 Norfolk was an original home in terrible shape, completely gutted and redone from the studs resulting in a gorgeous, completely remodeled, original home
In the 1900 Block of Lexington: 1954 Lexington a completely restored original 1930s home