When the Texas Population Projections 2010 to 2050 report was released by the State Demographer’s Office, several issues relating to urban planning and land use regulation suddenly came to the forefront of public discussion. The report suggests that, with current estimates, the Texas population will double by 2050, and most of that population growth will be in the major urban areas of Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. The report, released in late 2014, might have underestimated the Texas population growth. At this time, there are a quarter million new Texans yearly.
The challenge for urban planners in these cities is how the current infrastructure will handle the population growth, how to develop new infrastructure, such as energy and transportation, and how to provide housing. The two most common land use plans for urban growth and development are referred to as “Up” and “Out.”
“Up” refers to the development of an urban core by building apartments and condominium complexes at the maximum density possible. It means a range of housing price points, including low-income housing, on expensive urban land. It also means a changed nature of private and public space.
“Out” means development of housing options spreading from the outskirts of the current urban areas, a typical suburban single-family home plan mixed with multi-family apartments and condos with low-income housing remaining on less expensive land further from the city core. Current land use planning and zoning support this sort of development by encouraging minimum land requirements for new housing. Housing development will come with a higher price tag for infrastructure development, especially transportation, and will exclude less-skilled workers from participating in the economic opportunities that exist in urban cores.
According to Texas lobbyist and attorney Jake Posey energy, transportation, and communications infrastructure will all be impacted by zoning and land use regulations and planning when cities decide on how they will manage housing for the coming population explosion. The Texas Legislature has a complicated task, as planning for the disparate but related issues of energy, transportation, and communications infrastructure will have such a large impact on land use planning for Texas cities.