Definition of "Density zoning"

Michelle Houze real estate agent
Michelle Houze, Real Estate Agent RE/MAX Platinum Realty

If you live anywhere else besides Houston, TX, in the US, you probably heard of zoning ordinances. The reason for that is the city of Houston Texas is the only city that doesn’t use them. Zoning ordinances are used for planning, regulating, and imposing some restrictions for development for specific areas regarding zoning, shape, and size of buildings. Several types of zoning ordinances use letters and numbers to identify their use easier, but regarding density residential (R) zoning, we have three large groups that will be covered below.

So What is Density Zoning? 

Simply put, density zoning places limitations on property development by controlling the number of structures in a given area to control population density. Density zoning is used in town planning as a tool to either increase density or maintain a low density in an area of the city. Through density zoning, municipalities can specify the types of buildings allowed in a zone or district, limit or encourage how the land can be used, and at what intensity. There are three types of zoning regarding density, and we’ll take a look at each of them.

The identifying characters used below are not standard use for every city, but we gave some examples to understand how they are used. Larger cities may have more variations from the identifiers below, so check with your municipality when dealing with the terminology. In a metropolitan area, one density zoning limitation may be for 4-6 residences in an acre, while in smaller towns, 2 residences per acre maximum.

Low-Density Residential Zoning (R-1)

Also referred to as single-family residential zoning, this group covers low-density zoning. The low-density zoning imposes limitations for land used for one residence. Areas under low-density zoning are for neighborhoods with single-family dwellings with land allowances generally limited to an acre. On this acre, the number of single-family homes may vary depending on the size of the city. 

Medium-Density Residential Zoning (R-2)

Referring to medium-density residential zoning, we can see more housing varieties, from single-family with a small lot to duplexes or other multifamily housing. In medium-density residential zoning, the maximum allowance is for 6 to 10 houses per acre with parcels that respect each home’s allowable density.

High-Density Residential Zoning (R-3)

In high-density residential zoning, we’ll see apartment complexes, condominiums, high-rise apartment buildings, and other multiple-dwelling properties. There are 10 and more residences per acre in high-density residential zoning with much more limited parcels for each residential unit.

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