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Typical Building Setbacks in the City of Houston

Building Setbacks, or Building Lines, are a common mechanism used by many jurisdictions to control how close buildings may be constructed to property lines. See what the requirements are in the City of Houston.
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Building Setbacks, or Building Lines, are a common mechanism used by many jurisdictions to control how close buildings may be constructed to property lines.  Building setbacks may be placed on all sides of the property but are typically most restrictive along the “Front” and “Rear” property lines of a lot.

Most jurisdictions typically enforce building setbacks through their zoning ordinance as different zoning areas will have different setback requirements associated with them. However, there is no adopted, City-wide, Zoning Ordinance within the City of Houston Full Purpose Jurisdiction but building lines for new developments must still be regulated.

Typically, within the City of Houston, building lines are included and enforced during the platting process. Chapter 42, Section 42-150 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances provides a detailed description of the building setback requirements for all new plats. In general, the size of the setback heavily depends on the proposed use (single family vs commercial) and the Classification of the Street adjacent to the property line. The classification of the roadway may be found by using the City of Houston Public Works & Engineering’s GIMS Application Portal. It should also be noted within the City of Houston, setbacks dimensions are measured starting at the property line (not back of curb, not centerline of street, etc).

City of Houston Building Line Requirements Table
Click to download a PDF of this table

Based on the criteria above, the general building line may be easily found for any new project. However, additional sections of code need to be reviewed as they may help reduce, or remove, proposed setbacks, or may unfortunately make the setbacks more restrictive. Section 42-151 provides a number of Exceptions to the building line requirement. If your site is adjacent to a Major Thoroughfare (again, may be determined using GIMS mentioned above) you will need to refer to Section 42-152 titled, “Building Line Requirement along Major Thoroughfares.”

Within the City of Houston, it is also always important to review a current Title Report for the subject site to insure there are no deed restrictions on the site which may require more restrictive building lines than the ones outlined in Chapter 42 above.

Contact WGI’s Houston Office should you need any help in determining the building lines which will be associated with your next project.

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