Continuing to clear out the backlog this week…
- Austin vs. Houston: What Texas city is best to live in? Since it’s published in Austonia, which one do you think won, lol? But at least it was close – they give Houston good credit for affordability, diversity, and culture. And I have a solution for the identity problem…
- Niche 2021 Best Cities to Live in America. The Woodlands ranked the #1 Best City to Live in America. Houston gets an A-, not bad for a major metro, pulled down by crime. Hat tip to George.
- Travel and Leisure: Houston Might Be the Most Exciting City for Art in the United States — Here’s What to See – The new Kinder Building at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston confirms the city’s status as a cosmopolitan art mecca. Excerpt:
“Seven decades later, I’m amazed to hear that some still think of Houston as part of “flyover country” when it has become one of the world’s great art cities. What would it take to wake people up to all that diverse, sophisticated Houston has to offer?”
- A WSJ review of the newest Glaeser book: ‘Survival of the City’ Review: Saving Our Urban Future – Insiders have captured control of how American cities operate—and used that control to enrich themselves. Key excerpt:
“Messrs. Glaeser and Cutler see nothing less than “the rapid-fire deurbanization of our world.”
“Uncontrolled pandemic,” the authors write, poses “an existential threat” to the urban world. Nor is the coronavirus the only problem that cities face. “A Pandora’s Box of urban woes has emerged,” they continue, “including overly expensive housing, violent conflict over gentrification, persistently low levels of upward mobility, and outrage over brutal and racially targeted policing and long prison sentences for minor drug crimes.” These are not disparate problems. Rather, they “all stem from a common root: our cities protect insiders and leave outsiders to suffer.”
In Messrs. Glaeser and Cutler’s view, something has gone deeply wrong with how policy is set in many American cities. Insiders have captured control of how cities operate—and used that control to enrich themselves while providing limited opportunities for newer, younger residents.”
- And here’s a WSJ essay by the same authors: The American Housing Market Is Stifling Mobility – Prosperous cities use a range of policies to keep home prices high, shutting out newcomers and limiting economic opportunity. Key Houston excerpt:
“Silicon Valley is a perfect example of the long-term problem. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, four counties in northern California—Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara—have per capita incomes over $100,000. Given that extraordinary prosperity, you might think that people would be flooding into the region, as they did after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848. Yet they are not. Taken together, those counties’ population grew by only 6.5% between 2010 and 2020, below the average growth rate for large counties. For comparison, Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, has 35% less land than the four California counties, but in the 2010s its population grew 175% faster.
The reason for this is not hard to find. House prices in Silicon Valley make living there prohibitive for all but the very wealthy. Data from the National Association of Realtors show that in the second quarter of 2021, the median sales price for a new home was $1.7 million in San Jose and $1.4 million in San Francisco. In Houston, the median sales price was $307,000. Given the ease of building in greater Houston, house prices there may actually decline once we get through the pandemic. There is little chance that prices will fall in Silicon Valley.
Harris County is growing so rapidly because it is a place where housing and entrepreneurship are still largely unfettered. In contrast, coastal California is the capital of insider privilege. In 1982, the economist Mancur Olson published “The Rise and Decline of Nations,” in which he argued that in every society, cliques and special interest groups pass laws that limit competition and prevent change.”
This piece previously appeared on Houston Strategies.
Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Urban Reform Institute (formerly 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.
Photo credit: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, by Hequals2henry via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License.