January 09, 2008
Beware the builders

Be very, very wary of this.

Former Mayor Bob Lanier has joined prominent home builders and developers campaigning to limit new development regulations they believe could threaten Houston's growth.

Lanier's comments are part of a nascent effort to respond to recent city laws and policies, including a high-density development ordinance now being written, that affect the politically powerful real estate industry.

A new organization, Houstonians for Responsible Growth, which has begun the process of registering as a political action committee, is coordinating the campaign, said Ken Hoagland, a political consultant working with the group.

Lanier's involvement came in a letter delivered Dec. 27 to all 14 City Council members and Mayor Bill White. It also was signed by Leo Linbeck Jr., owner of a major local construction company, and Richard Weekley, a prominent developer and home builder.

"We are writing you because of our growing concern that the city is embarking, with the best of intentions, down a path of more extensive planning and regulations, many of which have ill-served cities across our nation," the letter states.

The public involvement of people with the stature of Lanier, Linbeck and Weekley suggests there's a well-organized effort to preserve Houston's traditional laissez-faire approach to land-use regulation.


Lanier said he agreed to sign the letter because he shares the concern that increasing regulations could add to the cost of new housing in Houston and price young families and first-time buyers out of the market.

"Each unit of additional cost knocks off a certain number of people from buying a home," said Lanier, who served as mayor from 1992 to 1998. "It's a serious error, in my judgment, to undertake to demonize the development industry."

Examples of the trend toward greater regulation, developers say, are a recent ordinance requiring residential developers to help pay for parks and the creation of a protected historic district in the Old Sixth Ward west of downtown.

Houston's low housing prices are among its chief economic assets, Lanier said, and policies that increase prices could make companies hesitant to locate their businesses here.

Weekley, speaking Monday to a City Council committee reviewing the high-density development ordinance, said the number of families who can afford to buy a median-priced home in Houston is declining, and new regulations could aggravate this problem.

"If you'd like for your children and grandchildren to buy a house in Houston, you need to be careful about unintended consequences," Weekley said.

The only consequence these guys care about is their own bottom lines. Weekley and Linbeck are two of the biggest pushers of tort "reform" out there, and along with Bob Perry helped give birth to the abomination known as the Texas Residential Construction Commission. Any interest these guys may profess to have for the availability of affordable housing, or Houston's growth potential, is secondary to their own financial interests. Using Bob Lanier as the lipstick on their pig doesn't change its fundamental nature. Keep an eye on this, and especially watch for any phony attempts to make their group look like a real grassroots effort.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 09, 2008 to Local politics

Linbeck is also the "brains" behind FairTax.org, another welfare-for-the-wealthy organization selling itself as grassroots populism.

Posted by: PDiddie on January 9, 2008 6:18 AM

Houstonians for Responsible Growth...!

If we had responsible growth, we wouldn't have flooding. We wouldn't have the Harris County Flood Control District. We wouldn't be putting our emergency crews in harms way to rescue citizens caught up in all this irresponsibility and greed.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on January 9, 2008 11:42 AM

FairTax's spokesperson is also that Responsible Development group's spokesperson - Ken Hoagland. You may remember him as the official spokesman for James Leininger and his school voucher group.

There are way too many things about this that stink to high hell. Definitely keep on eye on those shady guys.

Posted by: joe on January 9, 2008 12:17 PM