Virus declining, future of cities, a gathering place park for Houston, and more

Hope everyone is staying safe – things are starting to look pretty good here in Houston, let’s hope the trend of virus cases declining holds:

Declining new coronavirus cases in Houston area

Daily coronavirus case count from COVID-19 Dashboard – Harris County Public Health and Houston Health Department

Moving on to this week’s items:

  • The 2020 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey is out, and Houston continues to score a very affordable 3.6 median multiple between home prices and incomes.
  • Washington Examiner: Living in the Future. Hat tip to Jay. Excerpt:”Put another way, if, as seems likely, higher-income employees simply take advantage of working remotely to fan out more broadly across the country, the housing market and the nature of cities will change dramatically. The peaks in places of high demand will fall. Demand may be spread out, making housing easier to afford. New construction of less-dense housing types may find a place in today’s highest-cost cities, and renovation may take off elsewhere.Some will argue that this will undermine the intellectual and commercial innovation that has historically sprouted from the close contacts of cities. The popularity of Zoom meetings and flexible hours suggests otherwise.Without a doubt, though, the coronavirus will have implications for where Americans want to live and work. The status quo ante is unlikely to return.”
  • How transit can recover vs. the virus (ignore the sensationalist headline). Hat tip again to Jay.
  • NYT: America’s Biggest Cities Were Already Losing Their Allure. What Happens Next? A silver lining could be increasing big city affordability? Excerpts:”The country’s three largest metropolitan areas, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, all lost population in the past several years, according to an analysis by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Even slightly smaller metro areas, like Houston, Washington, D.C., and Miami grew far less slowly. In all, growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas fell by nearly half over the course of the past decade, Mr. Frey found.Now, as local leaders contemplate how to reopen, the future of life in America’s biggest, most dense cities is unclear. Mayors are already warning of precipitous drops in tax revenue from joblessness. Public spaces like parks and buses, the central arteries of urban life, have become danger zones. And with vast numbers of professionals now working remotely, some may reconsider whether they need to live in the middle of a big city after all.Before the pandemic, millennials and older members of Generation Z were already increasingly choosing smaller metro areas like Tucson, Ariz.; Raleigh, N.C.; and Columbus, Ohio, according to Mr. Frey. Also growing were exurbs and newer suburbs outside large cities.

    “There was a dispersion from larger metros to smaller metros, from urban cores to suburbs and exurbs,” he said.”

    “The folks that currently live in New York, that stay there full time that aren’t snowbirds, they are going to be like, ‘You know what? That’s it. Density is something we don’t want to deal with anymore.’”

  • NYT: A Cheaper Roof Over Your Head During the Pandemic? A relatively new arrangement, combining the advantages of renting and buying, could help people keep their homes and help millennials enter the housing market. But hidden within that idea is a danger.  This is deeply concerning to me because it means Wall Street will start hiring lobbying firms to block new housing supply so their assets maximize their appreciation. Not good and not healthy for society.”More generally, increasing the demand for housing cannot resolve the public’s housing affordability woes in America’s expensive coastal cities. Only increasing supply can. Housing costs are high in those cities because for decades strong demand for housing has been met with local land-use policy that severely limited new construction. Even a pandemic, with a recession in its wake, won’t stem housing price appreciation in the long term.Increasing people’s buying power, even if it emerges from something as significant as giving up on traditional ownership, won’t improve the state of housing affordability. As long as demand is fundamentally strong, building more housing is the only thing that will help.”

Finally, has anyone heard of or seen The Gathering Place in Tulsa. Super cool. We need one in Houston! Any big philanthropists want to step up?

This piece first appeared on Houston Strategies Blogspot.

Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Center for Opportunity Urbanism and co-authored the original study with noted urbanist Joel Kotkin and others, creating a city philosophy around upward social mobility for all citizens as an alternative to the popular smart growth, new urbanism, and creative class movements. He is also an editor of the Houston Strategies blog.

Image credit: Screenshot from COVID-19 Dashboard – Harris County Public Health and Houston Health Department