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Published on June 12, 2024
Texas Democrats and Republicans Find Common Ground on Zoning Reforms to Address Housing Affordability CrisisSource: Unsplash/ Tierra Mallorca

In a striking display of potential bipartisan collaboration, Texas Democrats and Republicans are clearing a path towards a shared solution to the state's pressing housing affordability crisis. The Texas Democratic Party recently adopted a platform that includes relaxing local zoning regulations—a move that housing experts agree could curb the steep rise in home prices and rents by enabling developers to build more homes crafted to meet the needs of the booming populace.

As reported by The San Antonio Report, the party's new stance pushes towards "ending racially motivated exclusionary forms of zoning which limit the supply of affordable housing options." This reflects a growing concern that such regulations perpetuate the divide within communities that dates back to the era of segregation, fostering displacement and surging housing costs that continue to impact the state's residents. With over half of Texas's 4.2 million renter households weighed down by excessive housing costs, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, this issue is one of pressing urgency.

Unifying voices in Texas politics are increasingly receptive to zoning reform, taking notes from the success seen in other states. Notably, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan are among top Texas Republicans who've hinted at a desire to see statewide zoning reform revisited in the Legislature next year. Their openness to tackling this crisis is bolstered by the shared burden of high housing costs among their party lines, with recent polls showing that 61% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats feel the financial pinch of inflated housing expenses.

While the bipartisan appeal is evident, the Democratic platform was also a strategic move in response to a growing impatience within the younger faction of the party—anxieties that their inaction on housing affordability could hand the issue over to Republicans. Micah Erfan, a Houston housing advocate, and co-author of the platform language, told The San Antonio Report that the Democrats' refreshed perspective is robustly YIMBY, echoing President Biden's viewpoint that more housing must be constructed where people aspire to dwell.

Moving forward, tangible efforts on zoning reforms are already in the works, with some proposals focused on smaller-scale solutions like "granny flats." At a recent Texas Senate State Affairs committee meeting, state Sens. Bryan Hughes and José Menéndez concurred on revisiting legislation on this issue, despite its previous challenges in the legislative landscape. With this shared perspective, it becomes clear that Texas legislators, regardless of party affiliation, can no longer afford to neglect the pressing housing affordability dilemma shared across urban, suburban, and rural constituents alike.

Opposition to zoning changes, however, remains a bipartisan challenge, as some Texans are resistant to altering the residential fabric of their communities. Still, advocates like Erfan argue that a statewide approach to easing zoning laws could fast-track relief to the housing crisis, compared to city-by-city efforts that might delay the desperately needed respite for countless Texans struggling to maintain a semblance of financial stability within the confines of their own homes.