The importance of keeping jobs in the coreThis Toronto Star article asks the question, "Is it a good thing if residents are moving into the city, but jobs are moving out?" Of course, it's better than both jobs and residents moving out of the city (like in the Rust Belt), but it's clearly worse than having healthy growth of both in a city.
...some are starting to question the wisdom of turning the city into a work-free zone. This is where people come to live and have fun, but increasingly their jobs are farther afield.
The traditional equation that had much of the suburban population heading downtown to work is gradually changing. More and more, people are driving from suburb to suburb or even from downtown to suburb to get to their jobs. Rush hour now happens in both directions, inbound and out, morning and night.
And because businesses in the city pay municipal property taxes at a rate 3.3 times that charged homeowners, the corporations are quietly abandoning the core for the hinterland.
For the moment, this massive influx of residents is seen as a good thing. Yet one wonders what becomes of a downtown where so few are actually employed. What happens to the tax base of a city that has been emptied of business?
In Houston, my sense is that traffic congestion is a bigger issue than taxes in determining where employers go. Houston has made substantial mobility investments to the core (both freeways and HOV lanes), so we have actually done a pretty good job of keeping jobs here. At the same time, we're starting to see a residential renaissance inside the loop. So, for now, Houston seems to be getting the best of both worlds. Keeping both trends going will require two things:
- Improving "quality of place" to attract new urban residents (an initiative of GHP, Gulf Coast Institute, and others)
- Continuing investments in mobility - both freeways and commuter transit - so existing employers don't leave for the suburbs