Sunday, August 26, 2012

Paying for Ike Dike and rail, aspirational cities, Metro's new GMP, and more

Before I get to some more misc items, a reader recently asked me my opinion on the new Metro GMP  referendum.  Bottom line: Nothing's perfect, but overall I like it. I wish Houston was getting more of its fair share vs. the other entities. But I like the slow, very modest GMP reductions, and that the extra is required to go to critical Metro needs like increasing ridership via buses and reducing debt.

On to the smaller items:
  • The Chronicle on the stalled Ike Dike plan from the lack of funding.  It should reduce home insurance rates dramatically, so why not just tax those insurance plans equal to the savings to pay off the dike and come out ahead?  Nobody pays any more than they already are, and we go ahead and skip all the death and destruction.  If you agree and know any of the decision makers, please pass it along. Would love to see this get done.
  • A Chronicle op-ed calling for more light rail to support pedestrian districts.  It's worth noting that these touted pedestrian districts in The Woodlands and Sugar Land are doing great without any light rail.  Houston also has plenty of these areas, starting with the big daddy, The Galleria. (A/C to boot!)  Then there's downtown, parts of Midtown, Uptown Park, City Centre, and the West U Village.  And new ones are being built near River Oaks and Uptown, including that new project east of the Galleria I forgot the name of.  When you look at all those, we're absolutely smoking The Woodlands and Sugar Land.
  • Speaking of rail, Houston Tomorrow has a story on all the property value increases along the existing rail line.  High value-add along rail lines means Metro could fund them with a TIRZ instead of taxing the broader metro area for lines most will never use.  Why not?  Let the property owners that benefit pay for it.
  • New Geography on the huge burden zoning puts on development.  Yet another point for Houston avoiding the whole mess!
  • The benefits of cities come from size, not density, meaning it's ok if Houston sprawls rather than densifies (or does both, as it is doing). And, as I've mentioned before on this blog, it means it's important for Houston to continue supporting growth, even with the growing pains.
"Specifically, West, a theoretical physicist, and his team show that measures such as gross domestic product per capita and income per capita rise, on average, 15 percent with each doubling of city population....For example, the Seattle and Houston urban areas have population densities much lower than those of Paris, London, Hong Kong and even Los Angeles – yet they still rank higher among the most productive metropolitan areas in the world, according to the Brookings Institution Global Metropolitan Monitor 2011."
Atlanta, Houston and Dallas each have added 300,000 college grads in the past decade. This is far more than Boston’s increase of 240,000 or San Francisco’s 211,000. Once considered backwaters, these Sunbelt cities now all enjoy a critical mass of educated people. 
Houston boasts a percentage of college grads over 25 somewhat above the national average. Dallas-Fort Worth is just about at the national average. The total Houston increase in college grads over the past decade amounts to three times that of the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif., twice that of San Diego and more than Philadelphia. Since hipness is not a well-known Houston trait (though it did place first this year on Forbes’ list of America’s Coolest Cities), and climate can hardly be seen as a positive, one has to imagine this growth has something to do with a job machine that has created over 100,000 new positions between 2006 and 2011. 
The addition of college grads leads to changes on the ground that tend to make cities even more attractive to future graduates. In the case of Houston, there’s been a proliferation of more sophisticated restaurants, clubs and bars in growing inner-city districts like Houston Heights, Montrose and Midtown. 
In the past, executives often turned up their noses at the prospect of relocating to the Gulf Coast metropolis, says Chris Schoettelkotte, founder of the Houston-based recruiting firm Manhattan Resources. Now, particularly given the weak national economy, Houston is increasingly competitive in the race to recruit skilled, educated labor, he says. This is particularly true with people at the beginning of their career. “I don’t get the pushback I used to get,” Schoettelkotte says. The message to recruits: “ You try to find a city with a better economy and better job prospects than us.”
That's probably enough items for this week. Be sure to check out this new site, "Houston Has Heart".  I love it! And this brand.  "Houston Has Heart" might even beat out "Houspitality" ;-)  Check out my item near the top of the Most Loved tab ("American Dream").  Vote for it if you like it, and/or add your own.  And their logo is pretty cool too:

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At 8:22 PM, August 26, 2012, Blogger Kevin Whited said...

** Speaking of rail, Houston Tomorrow has a story on all the property value increases along the existing rail line. **

So Crossley asserts.

HCAD's chief apparaiser, however, has previously said that rail hasn't had that impact on property values in Houston.

At 10:50 AM, August 29, 2012, Blogger Jardinero1 said...

I sell insurance in Harris County and your statement about the Ike Dike and home insurance rates is incorrect.

The Ike Dike would adress only the single peril of flood caused by storm surge. At best, the Ike Dike would help some with their flood insurance rates. This would be a small group who don't receive preferred flood rates already.

The Ike Dike would do nothing at all to lessen the effects of the perils of windstorm, hail and wind driven rain which are the perils driving insurance rates in Harris County as well as the cause of the nearly all the Ike related losses in 2008.

At 11:47 AM, August 29, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

It might have been the cause of most of the losses in Harris County, but I've got to think that's not the case in Galveston County, since almost the whole city went under water. I do think the cost ought to be borne by those directly protected on the coast.

At 9:05 PM, August 29, 2012, Blogger Jardinero1 said...

There were about 44000 flood claims and over 800,000 windstorm claims filed for the whole metro area after Ike. Windstorm claims outnumbered flood claims by 20 to 1. Every flood claimant was likely also a windstorm claimant as well.

Flood claimants had to elevate after Ike if their house was in a special flood hazard area - thereby mitgating potential future losses. All new construction in special flood hazard areas must be elevated which mitigates future losses. Also flood is a federal program which rates are set at the federal level.

At 9:19 PM, August 29, 2012, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

So we should put together the cost-benefit case for the feds, since they could be the ones saving money along with homeowners with lower flood rates.


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