Sunday, April 28, 2013

Houston vs. NYC, density does not equal wealth, DART's poor rail investments, good rankings, and more

Another round of smaller misc items:
"What’s happening in New York is just part of a national shift. Highly paid, college-educated people are increasingly clustering in the college-graduate-dense, high-amenity cities where they get good deals on the stuff they like, while low-skilled people are increasingly flowing out to cheaper places with a worse quality of life. The end result, Diamond’s research shows, is that measures of the growing income gap between the high-skilled and the low-skilled, which already look pretty shocking, seriously understate the inequality between these two classes. 
This two-tier economy can seem inevitable, but other middle-income cities — particularly Sun Belt hubs like Houston and Charlotte — are now offering a third option, says Edward L. Glaeser, an economist at Harvard. A large part of their appeal has to do with policies that make it easier to build homes and expand the affordable housing stock for those people fleeing cities like New York. Places like Detroit are cheap, Glaeser told me, because they have become drastically less attractive locations to live and work. But places like Houston are cheap — and staying cheap, even as they grow — because the local governments have realized their comparative advantage is in deregulation, not in fancy cookies."
No. 7: Houston, Texas
"Houston's close tie to the Caribbean, as well as its dominant global energy industry, thriving industrial base, huge Texas Medical Center complex and first-rate airport all work to its long-term advantage. Arguably the big city in the U.S. with the healthiest economy, Houston is also investing in a "green" future; last year it was the nation's largest municipal purchaser of wind energy."

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At 8:20 PM, April 28, 2013, Anonymous Rich said...

I enjoyed reading the rail-related analysis but I still wonder: if rail's such a bad investment, how come it's so much more economical to rent a residence in DFW than in Houston? DFW has over a hundred miles of rail going thorugh 4 counties, including to the airport. Houston on the other hand has 8 (but 40 in another year, hopefully). Rail has enabled folks to disperse and rent throughout the DFW region, in search of the best bargains. Competition has emerged between landlords that benefits their entire economy. In contrast, Midtown / Neartown Houston rents have gone up over 50% over the past year and a half as folks flock to the rail-serviced area. Meanwhile our breathing air's not getting less carcinogenic. Food for thought, huh? :-)

At 9:01 PM, April 28, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I'm not sure the apartment rents are linked to rail, Rich. DFW is true and total diverse sprawl with jobs (and apts) all over. There is no one "hot" area driving up rents. Houston has a booming energy industry that is hiring like crazy, mainly younger professionals, in a corridor from downtown going west to the Energy Corridor, and those people want apts in the cool neighborhoods like Midtown. This demand has been extremely strong the last couple of years, while developers were slow to respond because of the after-effects of the 2008 crash (esp. on financing). But there are a *lot* of new apts under construction now, and as that supply comes online, I have no doubt rents will moderate in Houston. That's the brilliance of our no-zoning free market land use regime.

At 5:42 PM, April 30, 2013, Anonymous awp said...

Kotkin does not demolish anything. When you cherry-pick you rarely destroy the cherry tree. Here are his facts.

-Cities in poor countries are poor (yes, but their urban residents are richer than their non-urban residents)
-Random dense western cities aren't as rich as these other random not as dense cities (so)
-Random less dense cities are destitute (so)

Just because New Urbanists don't understand causation (hey let's put a bunch of tower parks in Brenham) doesn't give their opponents (including me) a free pass on the arguments they use. When controlling for everything else denser cities are richer. But, the causation goes the other way. Productive cities are dense because lots of people want to live in productive cities.

At 5:47 PM, April 30, 2013, Anonymous awp said...

fact three

*aren't destitute

At 11:36 PM, April 30, 2013, Blogger sim k said...

I'm not super new urbanism but I just want one area of town where I can walk and get around by public transit for my needs.

Suburban style strip malls and huge highways can have the rest of the city

It's essential that we get out of our cars and walk for our health.

At 8:09 AM, May 01, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

I am absolutely a fan of Houston offering neighborhoods of that type for people who want to live in them. I live in one myself in Midtown! (esp. northwest Midtown) There's also rapidly new-urbanist-developing downtown, and places like the Rice Village and City Centre. Uptown will also move that direction with the BRT line.

At 3:30 PM, May 02, 2013, Anonymous Rich said...

Thanks for the insightful feedback. I've briefly lived in Dallas for a few months and chose Houston (where I've been for nearly 8 years), mainly because of the people here. I'd love it if we could catch up with Dallas, rail-wise, though.

But only if light rail deployment is done in a COST-EFFECTIVE way. I'm opposed to pork barrel spending and other examples of corruption at taxpayers' expense.
As for the lack of zoning here, that's being called into question now:

I share that article without passing any value judgment on it. Perhaps an upcoming blog of yours might wish to tackle it? At any rate, have a great weekend everyone :-)

At 6:45 PM, May 02, 2013, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

You can certainly have nuisance and safety laws without zoning, and we do. These laws may need to be reviewed after the West tragedy, but it doesn't require zoning.

At 12:47 PM, May 06, 2013, Blogger Michael said...

Regarding Kotkin, it seems to me that Houston is actually densifying significantly and will continue to do so - it seems like there are multi-family complexes sprouting up all over the loop and with chapter 42 perhaps this will soon be all over inside the Belt.

It seems like Kotkin is using absolute densities and should be using weighted densities instead. If 1,000 people live in 1 square mile of downtown Houston, but the land area is extended to 1000 square miles, and there are 10 large landowners living on that other land, that doesn't negate the fact that the core of Houston is 1000 people per square mile and the weighted density would be very close to that as well, not ~1 person per square mile as an absolute density would suggest.

Kotkin writes:
"For example, over the past four decades, everyone’s favorite dense core city, Paris, has seen its urban land area expand 55%, while its population has risen only 21%. Today, the geographical extent of urban Paris is more than 25 times that of the ville de Paris, home to most of the familiar tourist attractions."

This doesn't necessarily mean that the weighted density of Paris is declining. Austin Contrarian has written on this - I'm sure you've read it -

More importantly I guess what this means to me is that density is going to happen whether by market forces or planner / government forces as a city becomes more successful. I think we are witnessing that in Houston. We are not the poster-child for lack of density - we are in fact developing a dense core right here.

Also much of Houston is classified as "suburban" even areas right outside 610 like the Galleria, so not sure about the 99% of all growth has occurred in the suburbs since 2000 statistic. Heck all of Houston may be classified as a suburb.


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