Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Houston demographics and growth update

Brookings has a new report on the demographics of US cities since 2000. That link is to the abstract, this one is to the full 28-page pdf. I don't think you'll find too much that's surprising (news flash: people are moving to the south and west). If you want the fast overview relevant to Houston, I recommend going to the pdf and then searching on "Houston" - then skim the 15 results that come back. A few highlights:
  • We're the 15th fastest growing metro since 2000 at 9.3%, very close to #13 Atlanta and #14 DFW. The faster growers are generally much smaller metros than Houston.
  • We're the 14th fastest growing metro from 1960 to 2004, clocking in at 224% from 1.6M to 5.2M, also very close to #13 Atlanta and #15 DFW and with smaller metros growing at faster percentages.
  • We've passed up SF and DC for attracting foreign immigrants. Now #6 behind NY, LA, Miami, Chicago, and DFW.
  • Most of our growth is foreign immigration and natural growth, but we do still have positive domestic migration, unlike other big US metros that are hemorrhaging domestically: NY, Chicago, LA, SF, Boston, and Detroit.
So, building on the debate in the comments of one of my recent posts: if New Urbanist living is under-supplied and in such demand, why do the cities that offer the most of it have such a huge outflow of domestic migration? And why are the fastest growing cities from domestic migration sprawlvilles of the south and west like Riverside-SB, Phoenix, Vegas, Tampa, Atlanta, Orlando, and Dallas?

Please don't misunderstand me: I think Houston definitely needs some more New Urbanist/TOD developments and neighborhoods, and I think there is some demand there. I just disagree with the assumption that there is a massive unmet demand there, and that the suburbs are just chock full of dissatisfied people who would move to walkable/New Urbanist/TOD neighborhoods if they were available. They are available in a lot of cities, and people are moving out, not in.

8 Comments:

At 12:01 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if New Urbanist living is under-supplied and in such demand, why do the cities that offer the most of it have such a huge outflow of domestic migration?

Because cities that do have it often have seen real estate prices soar due in part to the nationwide limited supply. That forces out renters when their buildings go condo (which often means fewer people per unit), and it often forces out families of lesser means who are then replaced by couples or singles with more disposable income to spend on housing. So population decreases even while more and more people want to be there.

One way to see a reduction in the price of real estate in Manhattan or San Francisco or Boston is to essentially have more Manhattans and more San Franciscos and more Bostons. There are so many people in the US who would gladly give up the ranch house for the entire experience of Manhattan or SF or Boston if it wasn't so expensive, and it's so expensive because the supply is so limited. We need more Manhattans, not more DFWs.

I just disagree with the assumption that there is a massive unmet demand there, and that the suburbs are just chock full of dissatisfied people who would move to walkable/New Urbanist/TOD neighborhoods if they were available.

The experience of the new urbanist development The Kentlands in Maryland showed that demand was higher for houses there than in the surrounding non-new urbanist developments.

 
At 5:15 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous hh gwin iii said...

"Because cities that do have it often have seen real estate prices soar due in part to the nationwide limited supply. That forces out renters when their buildings go condo (which often means fewer people per unit), and it often forces out families of lesser means who are then replaced by couples or singles with more disposable income to spend on housing. So population decreases even while more and more people want to be there."

How does it reduce population when a million square feet of living space go from rent to ownership? Are two apartments typically consolidated into one?

Other than that minor quibble, I agree with your comment. With the exception of Detroit (which has suffered from bad management and de-industrialization), all those cities have seen housing prices increase much faster than “Sprawl Cities” like HOU, ATL, or DFW. This would imply that people really want “new urbanism” badly enough to forego other uses for disposable income and/or inhabit less living space to get it.

 
At 5:32 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does it reduce population when a million square feet of living space go from rent to ownership?

My assumption is that in a rental scenario, you have situations with roommates. However, when the property flips to an ownership model, you get a buyer who doesn't need (and thus doesn't have) roommates.

I'm guessing that the end result if a million square feet goes from rental to ownership as you suggested is an overall decrease in population even though the number of units hasn't changed. However, there could also be some consolidations of say two apts to one condo as you suggested. As I said, this is an assumption, so I could be wrong. I haven't done the research.

 
At 9:13 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's because as neighborhoods and cities become gentrified, they become less dense because yuppies tend to have smaller families. The cities of today are hardly the crowded tenement slums of yesteryear (at least the desirable ones, that is).

 
At 9:13 PM, October 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oops, correction to above: when I say "less dense" I mean "less densely populated."

 
At 9:15 PM, October 12, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I think that is a reasonable argument: the popularity drives up prices, which replaces families with couples/singles, which reduces overall population.

So the question is: can New Urbanism be done without unaffordability, or are they deeply linked somehow? Can it succeed where land is cheap and abundant?

 
At 9:41 AM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous hh gwin iii said...

"My assumption is that in a rental scenario, you have situations with roommates. However, when the property flips to an ownership model, you get a buyer who doesn't need (and thus doesn't have) roommates."

That makes sense; I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I'm becoming an old fart, as my idea f “roommates” has become a certain blonde and two toddlers. I don’t know what minimum wage is, either…..

 
At 10:00 AM, October 13, 2005, Anonymous hh gwin iii said...

“So the question is: can New Urbanism be done without unaffordability, or are they deeply linked somehow? Can it succeed where land is cheap and abundant?”

My guess is, probably not. I suspect that a high rise costs more per sq ft of living space than a balloon framed suburban house because of the increased building materials needed. There is probably a relationship between the cost of materials and the underlying dirt that determines what gets built—even in Texas, you do see highrises overlooking, for example, the beach.

I suspect you could make New Urbanism work in Houston by raising the cost of living in the ‘burbs (through land use restrictions, higher gasoline prices, or by NOT building highways so the commute to Clear Lake is 3 hours each way) or by lowering the cost in the city (by improving the quality of HISD schools, subsidizing people who live there, or improving mass transit).

Perhaps an intermediate step could be townhomes, like we see off Washington avenue, Midtown, and other places, but I wonder if those would provide the population density needed to get the types of services one sees in places like NYC, Paris, or London?

There is also a personal taste issue, where people who grew up in the burbs might prefer the burbs, and people who grew up in Manhattan might prefer urbanism.

 

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