Lots of good smaller items again this week: Houstonians got a free $18k from minimum lot size reform, METRO 2nd worst for rail crime, The Economist loves Texas, HTX tops std of living, Houston sliding towards zoning? More info below:
- Resources for Reformers: Houston’s minimum lot sizes – Problem, we have a Houston (clever twist!) “The lot size reform was equivalent to a one-time gift of $18,000 to every Houston household living in a single-family home. That adds up to about $8 billion.”
- Houston has the highest standard of living among top-40 US metros for a $100k salary (Chronicle story)
- The Economist: Why America is going to look more like Texas (archive link) – Lessons from the surge of the Lone Star State (followed by the more in-depth article “Texas’s latest boom is its biggest yet” – archive link). Key takeaways: Texas gets 1/3 of all net new US jobs(!), +500k people/year, #1 most Fortune 500 HQs, will pass CA for the #1 state in the 2040s, largest budget surplus ever at $33B (larger than the total budgets of 24 states) without needing an income tax to do it.
- Don’t say the “Z-word” – Houston’s reputation as a city with no zoning isn’t what you think. I disagree with this thesis that Houston is sliding slowly towards comprehensive zoning. Instead, I think we’re creating carefully targeted ordinances (buffering, flooding) to address key issues so we can avoid comprehensive zoning. But “conservation districts” are definitely still an attempt at backdoor zoning, and should be opposed here!
- Texas Tribune: To tackle high housing costs, Texas lawmakers push to build more homes – Housing advocates, builders and real estate experts agree that the state simply isn’t building enough homes to keep up with its booming population and economic growth. As mentioned in the article, Texans for Reasonable Solutions is doing great work with the legislature on this issue.
- METRO has the second-highest light rail crime rate in the nation. Sadly, light rail actually attracts *more* crime than buses (easier to ride free, hide from authorities, and escape).
- NYT: ‘The Era of Urban Supremacy Is Over’ – Many of the nation’s major cities face a daunting future (gift link gets past the paywall).
“Most of the nation’s major cities face a daunting future as middle-class taxpayers join an exodus to the suburbs, opting to work remotely as they exit downtowns marred by empty offices, vacant retail space and a deteriorating tax base.”
- WSJ: Sunbelt Traffic Jams Are Frustrating Drivers and Threatening Growth. It has a paragraph on mobility and employer access to employees that highlights one of my variables in Opportunity Urbanism:
“Firms like to open factories and offices in cities with plenty of skilled workers. When choosing between cities, they typically run an analysis to see how many potential employees live within a reasonable commute of a site. Poor traffic shrinks the radius, and by extension the labor pool, hurting a city’s chances of attracting companies.”
This piece first appeared at Houston Strategies.
Tory Gattis is a Founding Senior Fellow with the Urban Reform Institute 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.