Thursday, November 10, 2005

Misc items of the week: school choice and sprawl, transit savings, taxes, and affordable living space

Again, a collection of minor items that aren't big enough for their own posts.
  • An interesting argument (abstract) that school choice/vouchers could help reduce sprawl by making the core more attractive to more affluent families. Not your typical argument from the left. Of course we don't have full school choice vouchers in Houston, but HISD does offer quite a few choices with magnet and Vanguard programs, which might help explain why our core has stayed somewhat healthier than a lot of other cities.
  • An article (abstract) noting that high gas prices aren't pushing as many people to transit as you might expect, because most of the costs of owning a car are fixed (insurance, depreciation, etc.). Unless you can get rid of a car, the savings aren't really that much - and of course transit does cost some money, which eats into the savings. Doesn't cover the "transit car" strategy though: have an old, cheap used car to get to and from commuter transit rather than a more expensive, nicer car for full-length daily commutes.
  • Houston comes out pretty well in the CNN/Money rankings of state and local tax burden, ranking a low 46 out of 51 states + DC - about $4,612/6.1% of a $75K household, which is well below the $6,800/9.1% national average. Thanks to Erik for the link.
  • NY Times has a piece talking about the accelerating domestic migration out of California (and Boston, NY, DC) because of high housing and living costs. Houston is listed as one of the more popular destination cities. A running theme throughout the article: the quest for more space - both in the home and around the home. More evidence that density is a niche desire/lifestyle (albeit a growing one), not the average. We're like gas molecules, always trying to move further apart unless some external force puts us under pressure in a confined space (which seems generally unlikely as long as we remain a free society).
Have a great weekend, see ya next week.

8 Comments:

At 11:53 PM, November 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Today, however, the same factors that have made California so alluring have also made it unaffordable for many young families, retirees and recent immigrants to the United States. Some are heading to fast-growing cities like Las Vegas, as they have been for decades. But even less-glamorous destinations, like the Rust Belt and Texas, are on the receiving end of the migration."

Ouch =(

 
At 11:11 AM, November 11, 2005, Blogger kjb434 said...

I've also heard a recent statistic that Florida receives about 800 people a day of new residents. This is a little less than 300,000 people a year. Not far off and maybe underestimate of the real number. Most of the people moving are from high tax northeastern states.

I think Houston and Texas in general has this same situation. Both state have very similar tax policy which allow residents to keep more money of there own.

 
At 4:44 PM, November 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the notion that people are moving away from taxes isn't accurate. What they are moving away from is a high cost of living (housing prices, energy prices, taxes include as well).

To simplify the outflux of people to the South as simply tax related is naive and more a political rouse than anything. Until California housing became ridiculous, people would flock there even though taxes were relatively high. I think people in NY and Boston just got tired of having to live in overpriced apartments and condos and want real houses in warm weather.

Even with their unfavorable tax climate though, California is set to be the 2nd or 3rd fastest growing state in terms of sheer number of people over the next 20 years or so according to the US census.

So having a good tax policy helps, but states like Alabama and Mississippi have low taxes and almost no one wants to move there. Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas all provide northerners a chance to own a large house in a pleasant climate with large metros that approximate the massive cities of the northeast.

But saying it's a simple tax-effect is naive, as once you factor in sales taxes and property taxes in the South (which tend to be much higher, to compensate for no state income tax) things balance out to within a couple percentage points anyway. The real savings comes from cost of living.

 
At 11:45 AM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"trying to move further apart unless some external force puts us under pressure in a confined space"

Actually, "density" (as in, patterns of development more dense than suburban sprawl) is the norm in the absence of federally-funded highways, if history is any indication.

 
At 2:56 PM, November 13, 2005, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I actually think the trend pattern of history is sprawl, not density. Through all of history, wealth has been used to purchase more private space - and we have the wealthiest society we have ever had. Why would we not think people would use their newly gained wealth to purchase more space for themselves?

To be accurate, back in history when we had an agricultural economy, we had the ultimate "sprawl". Then we switched to an industrial economy and urbanized - the "slum tenaments" phase around the turn of the century +/- 50 years. Then as people got more educated and wealthy, they headed back out to where they could purchase more space.

 
At 5:52 PM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be accurate, back in history when we had an agricultural economy, we had the ultimate "sprawl". Then we switched to an industrial economy and urbanized - the "slum tenaments" phase around the turn of the century +/- 50 years. Then as people got more educated and wealthy, they headed back out to where they could purchase more space.



Tory,

keep it apples to apples. The discussion seems to be about densities in cities. Once you start talking about farmers, I dont think you are talking about city dwellers or suburbanites anymore.

 
At 8:02 PM, November 13, 2005, Anonymous RedScare said...

"Most of the people moving are from high tax northeastern states."

Like most other southern and western high growth states, much of Florida's growth is from foreign immigration. Of the 328,000 new residents annually, half of them are from foreign countries, mostly Latin America and Cuba. I doubt many are coming for Florida's tax rate.

Of the Americans moving to Florida, most are leaving what might be better described as retirees leaving "cold northeast states". The rest are coming for employment opportunities.

Another example of the myth of residents fleeing high taxes can be found locally. If residents wanted lower taxes, they would be rushing TO Houston's $2.99 tax rate and FROM The Woodlands and Fort Bend County's $3.35 average tax rate, not the other way around.

 
At 9:42 PM, November 14, 2005, Anonymous RJ said...

Wow, I just gotta repeat a line from that NY Times article:

"Even with a budget of $450,000, they quickly discovered they could not afford anything less than 70 miles from Mr. Cannon's office."

So they moved from LA to suburban Detroit...

But I love the fact that Philadelphia is coming to life with former New Yorkers who have realized that Philly is closer to Manhattan than the Hamptons.

 

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