Typical Building Setbacks in the City of Houston

September 29, 2016 by Patrick Byrne

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 COH, building lines are included and enforced during the platting process. Chapter 42, Section 42-150 (Link) 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 (Link). It should also be noted within the COH, setbacks dimensions are measured starting at the property line (not back of curb, not centerline of street, etc).

coh-building-lineBased 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 (Link) 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 (Link) titled, “Building Line Requirement along Major Thoroughfares.”

Within the COH, 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 BIG RED DOG Houston should you need any help in determining the building lines which will be associated with your next project.


Written by Patrick Byrne

Patrick Byrne

Patrick Byrne is a shareholder in BIG RED DOG and serves as a Project Manager in our Houston office. Mr. Byrne has been a project engineer on numerous site development projects throughout Houston, Katy, and South Texas. After beginning his career in central Texas, he has quickly become a go-to engineering resource for Houston site developers. His professional experience includes design preparation and permitting of commercial site development plans; including water quality and detention pond design, site investigation reports and due diligence investigations, grading, drainage, and utility plans, subdivision plats and construction documents. Patrick is a proud Purdue Boilermaker, and in fact was on the drum line for the Boiler Band. In his free time, he enjoys supporting the Houston parks systems and running along Buffalo Bayou.