Thursday, July 16, 2009

City of NWHou? Growth, hipsters on the move, rankings, and more

Another round of smaller misc items for your weekend reading:
  • Shareef has assembled a page of top Houston rankings from the last few years, which I have also added to my permanent right-side blogroll links. It's a pretty amazing list.
  • Animated map of job growth and loss over the last few years. Note the sudden big red Katrina blob over NOLA, and Houston holds out as the last green dot. Hat tip to HAIF.
  • Speaking of jobs, Houston ranks well on professional job gains. In sheer numbers, we're 2nd-best since 2000, after only the greater DC area (be afraid for your future federal tax bill).
  • Chris describes how zoning has spun out of control in Austin, and that drew interesting commentary from an infill developer. Let's take a moment to be thankful we don't have this level of red tape in Houston.
  • Another from Chris: a good defense of toll roads vs. free.
  • And one more from Chris: Census gains for the top 25 cities, with Houston still showing strong growth both for one year and the whole decade.
  • While we're on growth, some metro population predictions came out recently (alternate link). Austin will move up the most in the rankings over the next 15 years, but Houston is also mentioned:

    Houston and Atlanta will climb into the top six.

    Houston was the nation’s seventh-largest metro in 2005, and Atlanta was No. 9. Both will be moving higher in coming years.

    Houston is projected to shoot up to fifth place by 2025, adding almost 2.6 million people to reach a population of nearly 7.9 million. Atlanta is ticketed for sixth place at 7.3 million.

    The top four metros, by the way, will maintain precisely the same order over the 20-year period: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.

    Hat tip to Neal and Jessie.
  • Houston ranked as the fourth-best city for NBA free agents. And the ranking is based on not just the Rockets, but other aspects of the city as well. Not bad at all considering the competition. Hat tip to Jessie.
  • NYT coverage of the hip night scene in Houston on Washington Street. Hat tip to HAIF.
  • The Wall Street Journal recently had a front page story which title pretty much sums it up: 'Youth Magnet' Cities Hit Midlife Crisis - Few Jobs in Places Like Portland and Austin, but the Hipsters Just Keep on Coming. The focus is on Portland, which has some of the highest unemployment in the nation but keeps attracting domestic migrants. There is a great graph in the piece showing college-educated migrants, and Texas and Houston rank very respectably (and above Portland):
And the Houston excerpt:
"Of the top 25 destinations for domestic migrants between July 2006 and July 2007, before the recession started, Census data show only four drew more people in the subsequent 12 months, between July 2007 and July 2008, when the U.S. was in recession, according to an analysis by Mr. Frey.
The four places: Portland, Seattle, Denver, and Houston, which in addition to attracting college graduates, enjoyed a boom fueled by high oil prices."
  • Finally, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett recently sparked some discussion about whether unincorporated northwest Harris County should become its own city. We're talking about several hundred thousand people here, so not an insubstantial city. But I'd rather see it annexed into the City of Houston (which does have annexation rights over it) if it would be financially good - or at least neutral - for the city. It would go a long way toward helping us eventually pass Chicago and LA for the country's #2 city. Also, if Houston annexed enough of the unincorporated county, we might be able to eliminate a lot of city-county duplication of services. But I'd be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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At 2:27 AM, July 17, 2009, Blogger FIREhat said...

It seems the CoH has been somewhat reticent to carry out wholesale annexations since the Occupied Kingwood fiasco. Maybe I just haven't been paying attention, can anyone recall another major annexation akin to Kingwood or the one in the late 1950s that doubled the size of the City?

I'd love to see the NW area come into the City and I think we'd all be well served by annexation, but I'm just not sure I can see the City risking another dustup like the last.

At 7:57 AM, July 17, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Kingwood was a well-controlled, self-contained community like The Woodlands. They clearly had risks getting annexed. But all of NW Houston? That's an agglomeration of mid-tier suburban communities facing some serious issues themselves. And the county can't impose even basic development regulations (I'm for the free market, but basic regs are helpful). They may see the city as an organizing rescuer, or at least be indifferent.

At 8:09 AM, July 17, 2009, Anonymous kjb434 said...

The City of Houston will remain neutral on annexation for years too come. Financially, mass residential annexations don't work for the city anymore. The cost to transfer services and expand necessary fire and police protection make this a non-starter.

The city does pursue what is called special-limited purpose annexations. Essentially the city will annex without providing services to commercial MUD's (municipal utility districts). MUD's can't collect sales taxes. The city can. Under this type of annexation, the city collects the sales taxes then splits it with the MUD. Much of the commercial land west of Barker Cypress along I-10 falls into this category. The Port of Houston, SH 6, FM 1960, I-45 (north of the Beltway) are areas where these annexations exist. It's a win-win since the city doesn't have to provide any services (unless under contract) and the MUD can use the money to make improvements without bond elections or tax rate increases.

The only remaining annexation story out there for the city of Houston is the Woodlands. There was some agreement years ago where the city would annex the Woodlands in the year 2011. This agreement dates back to prior the Kingwood and maybe the Clear Lake kerfuffles. There is activity in the MUD's that make up the Woodlands to strongly resist. Since the annexation process now takes 3-years (result of the Kingwood fiasco), the citizens up there are getting prepared. In my opinion, I think the city wants to annex or maybe default to do a special limited purpose annexation on the Town Center area of the Woodlands for the sales taxes.

At 2:08 PM, July 17, 2009, Anonymous lockmat said...

The Judge Emmett link is not working

At 2:29 PM, July 17, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Thanks for the heads up. Fixed.

At 8:46 PM, July 30, 2009, Anonymous Andrew said...

I think the city should annex as much as it can --

However, due to the geographic spread of the city and the inefficiency that it can sometimes create, I'd love to see Houston begin to adopt a New York like approach to governance where the city was organized into "Boroughs" of sorts.

This could be a very effective way to distribute government more efficiently, to make it more accessible and responsive to citizens, and to avoid some of the 'identity crisis' issues that make annexation such a particularly emotional issue.

At 11:57 PM, July 30, 2009, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Good idea! I think some of this happens with the super-neighborhoods and the city council districts, but maybe something larger and more autonomous would make more sense.


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