Unlike other major metropolitan areas, Houston has no zoning. The City of Houston has grown freely with only minimal restrictions on land use. Actually, one of the reasons you may be moving here is that our lack of zoning makes us one of the most affordable cities in the country.
Early on, the city founders agreed to a laissez-faire policy with respect to land use. In Houston, no one sat down and decreed that residential neighborhoods would be here, while commercial and industrial properties would be there. We do live by some basic rules; for example, honky-tonk bars are forbidden near schools. But land use can change abruptly and with shocking speed on a street-by-street basis. So without zoning, what keeps a commercial facility from establishing itself in the middle of a residential neighborhood?
In lieu of zoning, Houston has developed a patchwork quilt of individual pocket neighborhoods (controlled at the grass-roots level by deed restrictions) and smaller cities (still independent, although now surrounded by the larger city of Houston). This hodge-podge is most evident in the center of the city, where redevelopment has occurred over fifty or a hundred years. Neighborhood and city boundaries may be invisible to the naked eye, but they are hugely significant to Houston home buyers because they control critical services such as water, sewers, schools, and police/fire protection. They determine elections in which a home-owner votes and how much he pays in property taxes. Most importantly to a home buyer, they influence average home prices and impact resale value.
Remember that the Houston Standard Statistical Metropolitan area covers several counties and a physical area larger than some small European countries. A Houston home buyer must verify which legal entity controls and services his property. Civic services such as fire and police response times may vary widely from city to city, area to area.
Ask your real estate agent about legal boundaries and their impact on your potential purchase.