Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Houston model wins again (twice), understanding NIMBYs, the politics of home affordability, and more

First, on this Valentine's Day, I'd like to re-declare my love for Houston! ;-)

Second, repeating last week's quick announcement: my Center for Opportunity Urbanism is having a free luncheon event near Uptown this Friday Feb 19th on America's Housing Crisis.  Details and RSVP here - hope to see you there!

Lots of items this week:
"Recent trends suggest that metropolitan areas can make progress toward growth, prosperity and inclusion at the same time. However, strong performance on all three outcomes at once is exceptional. From 2009 to 2014, only nine large metropolitan areas performed above the average of all large metropolitan areas taken together on growth, prosperity, overall inclusion, and inclusion by race.... But only two performed above average over the short term, the medium term, and the long term: Houston and San Jose."
"In the absence of zoning restrictions on the number of housing units in a neighborhood, neighborhood amenities would be a public good. Zoning converts neighborhood amenities from a public good (a partially non-rivalrous, non-excludable good) into a "club" good (a partially non-rivalrous, excludable good). Because "club" membership is bundled with home ownership, zoning causes the value of neighborhood amenities to be capitalized into home prices. NIMBYism can be thought of as the practice of objecting to development in order to protect the value of "club" membership."
Let us again be thankful for the wisdom of our predecessors not bringing zoning to Houston... 
"There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue this year’s election. Yet the most powerful force shaping this reality—the rising cost of housing—has barely emerged as political issue.
Following our current path, we can expect our society—particularly in deep blue states—to move ever more toward a kind of feudalism where only a few own property while everyone else devolves into rent serfs. The middle class will have little chance to acquire any assets for their retirement and increasingly few will choose to have children. Imagine, then, a high-tech Middle Ages with vast chasms between the upper classes and the poor, with growing dependence—even among what once would have been middle-class households—on handouts to pay rent. Imagine too, over time, Japanese-style depopulation and an ever more rapidly aging society. 
Yet none of this is necessary. This is not a small country with limited land and meager prospects. A bold new approach to housing, including the reform of out of control regulations, could restore the fading American dream for tens of millions of families. It would provide the basis for a greater spread of assets and perhaps a less divided—and less angry—country. Rather than waste their time on symbolic issues or serving their financial overlords, candidates in both parties need to address policies that are now undermining the very basis of middle-class democracy."
Finally an unpaid personal aside and recommendation: amazingly, the January electric bill for my loft was $5.52 (about two cents per kWh!) after the $25 monthly low-usage credit on the optimized electricity plan I got through My Best Plan, run by a fellow Rice alum.  They optimize your electric plan among the dozens or even hundreds available based on your historic seasonal usage profile. I can't recommend them highly enough if you find the electricity market overwhelming or excessively complex and time consuming.

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