Houston still has the highest standard of living, how smart growth regs hurt the poor, rail fail, and moreThis week's items:
- If there's one stat that should be Houston's claim-to-fame, it's cost-of-living adjusted average salaries - essentially the standard of living the city provides. We've been #1 in the past, and updated numbers out this week re-confirm that. And we didn't just win by a nose either - there's a wide separation between us at #1 ($62k) and San Jose (Silicon Valley) at #2 ($56k). NYC and SF are in the bottom half, with southern California (San Diego, LA, Riverside) bottoming out the list (~$35k). As I've said before, I think our winning secret is the lack of zoning (plenty of relatively affordable housing supply) combined with a well-paying energy industry (struggling as it is right now).
- The Financial Times on Dallas vs. Houston housing booms (try this link if you hit a paywall)
- This Just In: Light Rail Fails to Relieve Congestion. Excerpt:
"One thing building rail doesn’t do is get many people out of their cars. In 1980, before building any rail, Los Angeles transit carried 5.9 percent of commuters to work. Today, after building six light-rail, one heavy-rail, and seven commuter-rail lines, transit’s share of commuting is all the way up to 6.0 percent–and only 13.5 percent of those transit commuters take the train."
- Scott Beyer's latest piece in Forbes on how regulations - including smart growth - drive up house prices and hurt the poor. Excerpt with my highlights:
"All of these regulations, write the authors, have been found to increase prices by limiting housing supply. And that disproportionately hurts the poor.
"Most of these studies find that both traditional land use policies and newer policies, such as smart growth and inclusionary zoning, increase the cost of housing. And because housing takes up a larger share of the budgets of lower-income households relative to higher-income households, these policies are regressive."
But all these measures kowtow to a group–NIMBYs–who don’t really have a legitimate grievance anyway. Someone who buys a home and pays taxes in a city has a right to good public services. But they shouldn’t be able to micromanage surrounding property that isn’t theirs. The fact that this has become an entitlement shows the distorted nature of modern urban politics. Existing owners have become an interest group demanding undue protectionism, and officials, wishing to stay popular, satisfy them by crafting stronger regulations. Those who suffer are newcomers–especially poor ones–wishing to rent or own in America’s destination cities."
"The growth of Houston has far surpassed the perception about it from outsiders. Thanks to a warm climate, pro-business policies, and a lack of zoning, it is now America’s 4th-largest city, and is creeping up on perpetually-mismanaged Chicago. In the process, it has nurtured a host of amenities that signify its newly-global status, from the world’s largest medical center to one of America’s best restaurant scenes. Add to these several new parks, with more to come, that could tweak the city’s sprawling and auto-centric reputation.
"But the most remarkable thing about the park, in an age when government projects constantly exceed cost estimates and drag on for decades, is how much bang this public-private partnership got for its buck. For $58 million, Buffalo Bayou Park now has two new major visitor centers, several pedestrian bridges, added flood control, and acres of amenity-filled parkland. Anne Olson, president of the partnership, credited the project’s privately-funded model for the strong turnaround."
...Scott is on a 28-month tour of living in 28 American cities leading towards a book on city revitalization, and we're his #2 stop after starting in Miami. I've shown him around town a bit, and I think he's been impressed with what he's seen so far.
When it comes to the factors for attracting this talent, Houston’s parks likely will not surpass its strong business climate. But they should slowly make Houston’s image greener, and assuming everything is completed on time, will become a testament to the city’s pragmatic spirit. In 13 years, the city will have added numerous world class parks, at a cost likely far less than the economic benefits reaped. While other cities have become monuments to bureaucratic inertia, Houston will show what happens when a business-oriented city gets into the business of parks."
Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!