Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Rent is Too Damn High

"All-time Record High Rents." That's the headline in Dallas Business Journal. "The hot apartment market in North Texas is bringing all-time high rent as apartment occupancy continues to remain tight." Former Texas governor and GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry understands what's going on, at least elsewhere.
In blue-state coastal cities, you have these strict zoning laws, environmental regulations that have prevented buildings from expanding the housing supply. And that may be great for the venture capitalist who wants to keep a nice view of San Francisco Bay. But it’s not so great for the single mother working two jobs in order to pay rent and still put food on the table for her kids.
Source: Rick Perry.
What's the solution?

More housing. In compact urban areas like New York City and San Francisco, that means building higher and denser. There's local resistance to that. But you know what, in sprawling metropolitan areas in Texas, it also means building higher and denser. It's not just big cities, and certainly not just New York and San Francisco, that use restrictive zoning rules to prevent buildings that expand the housing supply. Suburbs do, too.
San Francisco's and New York's (also very expensive) suburbs have much lower-density zoning restrictions than the cities themselves. New York City is more than 10 times denser than its suburbs. Most suburban areas allow only detached houses with big yards. The suburbs also have more parking-space requirements and segregated uses that make walking unpleasant or impractical and force people to drive.
The suburbs are just as unaffordable as the inner cities, even more so when you factor in the cost of owning a car and driving everywhere.
Source: Grist.
It turns out that Richardson's CityLine and Palisades are part of the market response to the need for more housing in north Texas. These developments are not replacing suburban sprawl all the way to the Red River. They are in addition to that sprawl. Some people still want that detached house and big yard and hours-long commute. Some want higher-density, mixed-use neighborhoods within walking distance of public transit options like DART. And some people just want more affordable housing than what either Uptown or Frisco -- or Richardson -- currently provides.

But the CityLine and Palisades developers had to fight fierce resistance to zoning changes that made this increase in housing possible. And CityLine and Palisades are only increasing the supply of apartment housing at the high end. They aren't providing what's called affordable housing at all. Grist lays out a comprehensive program for dealing with north Texas's "all-time record high rents" across the full spectrum of need.
We need suburban counties and towns to build more affordable housing, reform their zoning codes to allow density and mixed uses, and reform their transportation policies to require walkability and bikeability. And we need all those same policies in sprawling, inefficient, low-density cities like Houston, too.
Source: Grist.
Expect the next fight, for more affordable housing in the suburbs, to be even fiercer than the fight over CityLine and Palisades.

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