Metro's lost decade, why Houston should be the capital of Texas, our affordability, and more
This week's misc items:
- Fortune article on a new book about how the the U.S. is bifurcating into high-growth, low tax, low debt central states and low-growth, high tax, high debt coastal states. Yet another reason to be thankful you live in Texas...
- Rising Prices Make Homeownership Affordability More Unequal Across the U.S. Despite the local headlines about Houston home prices moving up, it's relatively mild compared to more constrained metros, with only 12% of monthly average wage needed to pay the mortgage (second lowest after Detroit) and only a 8.7% year-over-year increase in prices. #1 Honolulu requires a whopping 74% of the monthly average wage to make mortgage payments. Mega-ouch. Houston was in the middle of the pack when it comes to rent affordability, requiring 29% of the monthly average wage (vs. 57% in Miami and NYC) and 9.7% YOY growth. Hat tip to Hugh.
- Texas Monthly on why Houston should be the capital of Texas instead of Austin, and the debate that ensued. Yes, it's a bit tongue in cheek. But still some fair points... ;-)
"So here we are, almost two centuries later. Austin, the capital, has forsaken the risk-taking ways of its founder and more closely resembles its dour namesake. The city is becoming ever more buttoned-down, striving, and full of modern-day “impresarios” (luxe condo flippers and McMansion builders) while insisting it is still the same “weird” Shangri-la it was when LSD and mescaline first came to town. Meanwhile, Houston—whose city father, incidentally, was known for his shaggy mane, gaudy head scarves, and Indian sashes—effortlessly goes about being one of the strangest and most wonderful metropolises on earth.
Consider first a few of its contrasts: For nine of the past eleven years, U.S. News & World Report has named MD Anderson the top cancer hospital in the country, while the Rothko Chapel will forever be an idyllic meditation space and the foremost shrine to suicidal depression on the planet. Rice is the state’s only private university with Tier One status (and the University of Houston is vying to become only the third public university in Texas with that status), while 2013 marks the twenty-sixth annual Houston Art Car Parade, a rolling spectacle and movable feast for the eyes like none other. Houston is home to more Fortune 500 companies than any American city outside New York and more taquerías than any ciudad this side of Monterrey.
Then there’s our sheer cultural heft. More than two million people avail themselves yearly of ballet, Broadway shows, opera, plays, and symphonic music at the nine arts venues downtown. Taken together, the seventeen-square-block theater district has more concentrated seating for arts events than any place besides Broadway. Seven million people a year stroll through Houston’s nineteen museum district attractions; last year the Houston Museum of Natural Science almost doubled in size with a 115,000-square-foot expansion that includes the gobsmacking, Smithsonian-level Morian Hall of Paleontology. And need I mention NASA, or that “Houston” was the first word spoken on the moon?"
- Excellent Bill King op-ed on how Metro blew it over-focusing on budget-busting light rail over the last decade. Great concluding excerpt:
"It is a welcome development that Metro seems to be committed to a revival of its bus service. It is unfortunate that we wasted a decade and several billion dollars on building an at-grade system that will do very little to enhance transit in Houston. We can only imagine how good our bus service might be today had Metro spent that decade and those billions on buses. Buses may not have the cool factor that shiny trains do. But if you really want to move a lot of people and really provide an alternative to private car travel, buses are the answer."
Looking forward to some (hopefully) good Astrodome news this week!
Labels: affordability, growth, home affordability, identity, Metro, mobility strategies, perspectives