Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Houston #1 std of living confirmed, #2 F500 HQs, higher speeds = higher incomes, screwy city metrics, and more

 Continuing to work through the summer backlog of smaller items...

"Demographer Wendell Cox’s recent estimates of U.S. housing affordability found unaffordable housing in Dallas, Houston, and other Texas cities that have historically been quite affordable. In a post about housing issues, I noted that Cox’s home price data were based on real estate transactions while the Census Bureau numbers are based on a cross-section of all homes in a region.

Before the pandemic, median real estate transaction prices were only 2 or 3 percent higher than Census Bureau values, indicating that people buying homes represented a good cross-section of America. In 2021, median real estate sale prices were at least 20 percent higher than Census Bureau values. As the recent real estate boom is driven by people who have discovered they can work remotely, which means people of above-average incomes, price-to-income ratios based on real estate transactions overestimate the true value-to-income ratios.

The 2022 data from the Census Bureau confirm this. The data show that the value-to-income ratio was 3.9 for the city of Houston and 3.2 for the Houston urban area. These are a lot lower than the 4.7 in Cox’s paper."
"Houston has the title of second most popular headquarters city for Fortune 500 firms... with 22 of them headquartered in the city... 
What makes Texas, or Houston for that matter, so appealing for corporations? Mostly the low cost of living and lack of taxes on businesses. Even Exxon has tightened its belt in the inflationary age, though, shedding its “God Pod” and consolidating its upper management’s formerly exclusive luxury suite into its preexisting Houston campus."
"faster cities are faster because they have more roads and are lower in density (which they describe as have a “larger land area”); and that those roads produce benefits by allowing faster top speeds more than by reducing congestion...The authors conclude that cities that want to increase speeds (and, by stated implication, worker incomes) should build more roads. While it admits that won’t be possible in Bangladesh, it should be possible in most cities and countries. Even if, as the anti-road people argue, building more roads simply leads to more driving, building roads that are faster leads to higher overall speeds which should produce enormous economic benefits."

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Sunday, September 10, 2023

METRO $ needs to support higher City priorities, dropping fertility rates, updated home affordability, better bike safety, and tragic land-regulation consequences in Maui

 Summer blog break is over and I'm back! Quite a few backlogged items:

Research shows that higher population densities mean lower fertility rates. High housing prices also lead to lower fertility rates. Further research shows that “living in spacious housing and in a family-friendly environment for a relatively long time leads to higher fertility.” 

In short, if you think that preventing demographic collapse is a good thing, then this becomes one more reason to oppose planners who want to densify American cities. Planners’ efforts to force more people to live in apartments or smaller homes by making housing artificially expensive could be the downfall of the American economy.

  • 2023 Demographia US Housing Housing Affordability Study released. Houston is worsening but still better than most of the country, and I think our home price-to-income ratio may be temporarily skewed upward. With high mortgage rates, I think more of the middle and working class are out of the market, so recent sales skew wealthier (not to mention they make up more of the remote/hybrid work employees willing to upgrade moving farther out) – people who might be selling an existing home and paying cash for a new one (or at least a very substantial down payment). This would skew the home price-to-income ratio to make Houston look more unaffordable than it really is. 
  • Tragic unintended consequences: Hawaii restrictive land-use law -> reduced housing supply -> skyrocketing prices -> drives away farm labor -> farms bankrupted with flammable grasses left behind instead of fire-resistant native or agricultural plants -> deadly fires in Maui.
  • New Orleans Dismantles Bike Lanes:

Rather than create an illusion of safety with bike lanes that increase congestion, bicycle advocates should focus on programs, such as improved intersection designs, that actually do make bicycling safer without necessarily hampering auto driving. Unfortunately, too many city planners and bicycle groups are stuck in the “automobiles are evil” mentality and anything that hurts autos is regarded as a win for bicycles even if it results in more bicycle riders being injured or killed.

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