Real backlog of smaller items this week…
- Houston nails ranking as busiest home construction market in U.S.
- Site Selection magazine ranked Houston #3 last year for economic development projects behind Chicago and DFW. DFW I understand, but why the heck are people still investing in Chicago, given all the issues and migration out of there?
- $105 billion over 20 years for a high-speed rail tunnel between Connecticut and Long Island – absolutely bonkers! This could eclipse California for the high-speed rail biggest white elephant award…
- Market Urbanist: “Houston has by far the most industrial jobs of any U.S. city, offering a blueprint for how to “bring back” American manufacturing“
- More Market Urbanist: Want to solve the urban housing crisis? Make markets elastic. Houston excerpt:
“Houston—whose median home values are only 76% of the national average—stands out. Since 2010, it has had America’s 2nd-highest net population growth but is #1 in permits issued. This has made it an affordable city even in core locations; 1-bedroom, 1-bath downtown condo units can be found for under $200,000.
How does Houston remain so elastic? Less regulation. The city famously lacks a zoning code, and many of its suburbs are also very pro-growth. This means it has fewer legal barriers to more housing than inelastic coastal metros, where proposed zoning changes can trigger lengthy and contentious review processes.”
- Bloomberg CityLab: To Create More Affordable Housing, Make Zoning Hyperlocal – What if residents on a single block could make their own decision to allow denser housing? Houston excerpt:
“Similar proposals show that the basic idea of hyperlocal zoning has precedent. Houston has been able to remain a city without zoning laws in part because residents had options in the form of deed restrictions, where neighbors could choose their own rules at the hyperlocal level. In 1998, policymakers were able to reduce the city’s minimum lot sizes by allowing residents on individual streets and blocks to opt out of that change, a move which helped overcome local resistance because residents felt they had control over the risks. The result? Some 25,000 more housing units, including denser townhomes, built close to job centers and transit, many of which Houstonians would not have seen built otherwise.”
- WSJ: How Remote Work Is Reshaping America’s Urban Geography – Smaller cities and communities are turning into ‘Zoom towns’ and competing with coastal hubs as workers move to find more space and lower costs. Basically, Richard Florida articulates Creative Class 2.0, which is the same as 1.0 but for remote workers outside superstar cities. Key excerpts:
Eye-opening stat: “remote workers are often more efficient than their in-office counterparts. They don’t waste hours on mind-numbing commutes, and they aren’t distracted by unnecessary meetings and water-cooler chitchat. The productivity boost to the U.S. economy from remote work could be as high as 2.5%, according to research by Stanford University economist Nick Bloom and colleagues.”
Conclusion: “The remote-work revolution promises to change the way that Americans work and live. It will allow smaller cities, suburbs and rural areas to compete with the superstar cities on the basis of price and amenities. It will shift the main thrust of economic development from paying incentives to big employers to investing and building up a community’s quality of life. As communities attract more remote workers, their tax bases will grow, allowing them to improve schools and public services, benefiting everyone. Eventually, companies will come too. That holds out the possibility of a better, more virtuous circle of economic development.”
Finally, a couple items on Houston as a startup hub. First, we rank #4 on this list for annual startup formations and jobs created by startups (#10 for formation rate), behind DFW but – surprisingly – ahead of Austin! Second, the excellent Texas Startup Manifesto 2.0 is out (highly recommended), arguing for treating the Texas Triangle as one giant startup ecosystem (absolutely), with this excerpt on Houston:
“Houston (East and Gulf Coast) is the fourth largest, and the seventh most diverse city in the US. It’s the energy capital of the world and is home to the Texas Medical Center (TMC), the world’s largest concentration of healthcare delivery and research institutions; to the NASA Johnson Space Center, a hub for cutting-edge human space flight research and astronaut training; to the number one seaport in the nation for waterborne tonnage, for foreign waterborne tonnage, and for vessel transits. Houston is an international city — a seaport, a spaceport, a “health-port”, and an “energy-port.” As a result, Houston has a diverse, high-tech industry ecosystem, and is increasingly an industry destination, serving as the home to 22 Fortune 500 company headquarters (with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise becoming the latest addition).”
This piece first appeared on Houston Strategies.
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.
Chart credit: Housing elasticity and prices in 20 fastest growing metros, Market Urbanism Report.