A cautionary warning from Australia to HoustonToday we have an interesting item from Down Under - a report titled "The Tragedy of Planning - Losing the Great Australian Dream" (thanks to Hugh for the link). It laments the extremely high housing prices in Australia due to tight land use regulations, and makes some very favorable comments about Houston and Texas. Their housing is similar in price to most of California, with the median house between 6 to 9 times the median income (actually, LA and San Diego get as high as 11 times). The rule of thumb is to spend no more than 2.5 times your income on a house, which is about where the median house is in Texas relative to the median income.
Some excerpts of interest.
If Australia were applying the liberal systems to development that prevail in Texas for example, a house/land package price would at least halve. Australia’s ration-induced high prices for new developments on the periphery lift prices throughout the city.Page 66 has an interesting statistical comparison section and table between Texas and Australia, which are very similar in many ways.
Australia has a much larger land area, and thus a much lower population density. Texas has a larger and faster-growing population, a larger economy and crams even more of its population into its five largest cities than does Australia. Texas has more folk who speak a language other than English at home and more residents who were born outside its borders than does Australia.And the comparative section ends with this conclusion:
Nevertheless, they are broadly similar societies.
Since Texas has (much) less land, a greater population, is faster growing and is more productive (both overall and per person) and has an even larger share of its population in its five major metropolitan areas, it would seem likely that housing would be much more expensive in the metropolises of the Lone Star State than in the cities of our island continent.
Yet precisely the opposite is true.
Texas is a much less linguistically homogenous jurisdiction than Australia, with a higher rate of population growth and migration-in of people born outside its borders. But it is clearly much more able to provide housing policies which are in the general interests of its inhabitants, rather than the preferences of a narrow group of urban planners reflecting the interests of wealthier members of society. In particular, it does not provide policies where, due to constricted supply, demand pressures from newcomers price people out of home ownership. More liberal land use policies are themselves not an inconsiderable aid to social harmony in a diverse society.Emphasis on that last point is mine. Something to keep in mind as the Houston Planning Commission works on its "Plan to Plan." How do we avoid the negative side effects of planning observed in other cities?