Sunday, May 09, 2021

Four drivers of Texas' rapid growth

A few weeks ago I interviewed Washington Post journalist David Byler on the drivers of Texas' growth, which resulted in an excellent piece he published last week with great analytics, map animations, graphs, and articulation of the drivers: Texas’s population and political power are growing. Here’s why. It concludes with this excerpt:

"Texas has found a simple formula for success — economic opportunity and a low cost of living — and stuck with it. People want simple things: good jobs, affordable housing and room for kids. And they’re willing to move to states that offer them." 
For this post, I wanted to pass along the four growth drivers I shared:
  1. Texas does not allow zoning/land use regulation in unincorporated counties on the edges of cities, so developers build large, affordable, amenity-rich master-planned communities that attract lots of people using Texas Municipal Utility Districts (MUDs), where a developer can float private bonds to build the infrastructure (streets, utilities) paid back by taxes in that community.  It creates a thriving, competitive free market in housing development – much more than you’d see between incorporated cities.  The Woodlands is one of the most famous of these, but there are hundreds (Bridgelands and Cinco Ranch as large examples).  Here’s a giant one going up near DFW.
  2. High standard of living, especially shared among immigrant networks: they know what kinds of houses their extended family members can afford all over the country, and they see the newest and biggest at the most affordable price in Texas (combined with job opportunities). They end up choosing Texas when they come to America. (and remember it’s more than just median house prices – it’s what you get for that price: that $635k in California gets a very old, small house – in Texas $278k gets you a larger, newer house) 
  3. Family-friendly: Declining fertility is a problem all over the developed world, most especially in places where housing has grown expensive. If families can’t afford more space, they shrink the family size to compensate.  In Texas, it’s very affordable and common to get large 4, 5, even 6 bedroom homes in the suburbs with good school districts, which keeps the birth rate up here.
  4. Opportunity Cities: This blog post of mine has a fairly good list of attractive elements in Houston specifically and Texas in general.
Anything I missed? Looking forward to your thoughts in the comments.

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At 7:10 PM, May 10, 2021, Blogger Max Concrete said...

I would add expansion of the highway system in Texas as a key factor for economic growth. These expansions make more outlying land accessible for residential development and empower new commercial construction, everything including retail, warehouses, offices and industrial. National growth leaders Phoenix, DFW and Houston all have strong highway expansion programs. Regions that pour disproportionate resources into public transit (e.g. California) get worsening traffic and lower transit ridership. (The only exception to lower transit ridership pre-Covid was Seattle.)

At 7:18 PM, May 10, 2021, Blogger Tory Gattis said...

Very good points. The Opportunity City blog post I mentioned includes Affordable Proximity, which is mobility + affordable housing, but I could be more explicit about the specific benefits of highway expansions.


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