Mark Twain was fond of saying that everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it. The same could be true of recessions, particularly in the real estate world. Since I make my living in the world of real estate transactions, litigation and land use, I try to keep informed about the economy generally and the commercial real estate industry specifically. That is, I like to stay ahead of the curve. We all know that recessions are like malaria; they return every so often no matter what you do. Yet despite this irrefutable fact, it seems that there is little pre-planning in key areas. I’ll describe just one such area.
Many zoning codes (and we have tons of them in the Philadelphia area) are inflexible, static and often behind-the-times resulting from no pre-planning for economic changes. Many ordinances continue to prohibit industrial-to-residential conversions, mixed uses, Airbnb, VRBO, student and workforce housing and conversion of non-conforming uses, just to name a few. I recognize that a zoning ordinance is a key component of good comprehensive planning, although Houston seems to get along fine without a zoning ordinance.