Houston Matters

If Houston’s Population Projections Are Correct, Where Are We Going to Put Everyone?

Recent projections say the region’s population could top 10 million in the next 20 years

According to a recent projection, Greater Houston’s population could top 10 million by the year 2040.

That’s really not that far away, and while projections can be revised, even coming anywhere near that number leads to a daunting question: where will all these Houstonians go?

To find out what infrastructure improvements will be needed over the next 20 years in order to accommodate any further significant population growth in the region – and to discuss how Houston could develop to successfully accommodate all those people — Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty talked with Dr. Bruce Race. He’s an architect and urban planner and a professor in the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design at the University of Houston.

“It’s not a quantitative question, it’s a qualitative question,” Race says, while adding that what really matters is how a city and its expansion are designed.

Race thinks Houston could be retrofitted “as a contemporary modern city with a lot more diversity in terms of housing offerings” by, for instance, having “60 or 70 linear blocks of medium and higher density housing around transit (corridors)” and covering areas close to and around 10 or 12 key intersections.

The expert says Houston is, at least to a certain extent, already experiencing that transformation with four and six story buildings. “It’s a real common construction type, it’s affordable, and that’s what we’re seeing a lot of and that’s the next level of density and investment we could expect to see, particularly in transit corridors.”

Race also thinks recent studies, such as the “City of Houston/Midtown Livable Centers Study” by the Houston-Galveston Area Council and the current Complete Communities initiative by the City of Houston can contribute to accommodate newcomers in the next few years.

The expert notes Houston needs to transition to being a more walkable city and, specifically referring to the Complete Communities plan, says “that neighborhood based approach is really key, so you are not just looking at a collection of developments, it’s actually planned as a neighborhood.”

“That adds more value, you can be more inclusive in terms of how you think about these neighborhoods, so I think that ends up being important,” Race underlines, while also mentioning that improving mobility in the Houston region will also be a “critical” factor in the equation to successfully achieve the projected population growth.

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