One imagines that today's Chron.com story on growth in the Houston region has to be creating a bit of heartburn for those of a central planning, change everything about Houston ilk. In a perfect world real data such as this would cause them to re-think their stated position on moving everyone inside the Loop and using public transit to funnel people to the central core, but the reality is it will probably only cause them to double down.
Yesterday on NoUp we discussed exactly what Houston was choosing to subsidize in terms of housing, and why it seemed impractical, and today's numbers reinforce that theory and then some. For one, it seems that jobs, specifically in the oil and gas sector, are a main driver of growth and not urban amenities. Second, not only are people coming to the Houston region, taking a look around and then choosing the suburbs, but it seems that the people inside the City are pulling up stakes and moving out there as well.
This presents the City with somewhat of a problem.
We all know that money, and not warm-fuzzies, are what makes the world go around and, given that a large part of the taxable-base seems to be fleeing the city, it's a certain fact that Houston is going to be looking for more revenue very soon. Increased revenue requirements, of course, will mean tax increases which, usually, are harder for the poor and middle-class to absorb than other groups. This then means that the exodus is going to continue at possibly greater levels than before.
What this also means is that Metro is still planning on spending Billions of dollars to move around less and less people instead of taking a hard look at their business plan and realizing it's on the cusp of going tits up. Strangely, not a person there seems to have noticed this so it's all hands on deck to provide the most service where the fewest people in their service region are going to be living.
Another take-away from all of this is that people have an innate desire to have yards, the freedom provided by a personal automobile, good schools, and some order. While it's true that we here at NoUp are big fans of Houston's no-zoning policy, and feel (rightly) that attempts to reverse this long-standing policy would end in disaster, there's very real evidence that planned communities such as The Woodlands and Sugar Land have very real appeal.
It's not hard to imagine that this news will cause some consternation among Houston's ruling class, and that somewhere, sometime, someone will decide that Something! Must be done! Given the history of the current leadership that Something! will probably involve creating a commission whose job is to figure out what Houston can do to entice people to relocate back with the warm, embracing confines of the city limits.
So, get ready for it Houston, in a few months there's going to be another story in the Chronicle revealing that the commission has discovered, through on-line survey probably, that people really want to live in close quarters inside the Loop, and that they'd do so only if there were pedestrian-friendly complete streets and if the City were willing to spend 2 Trillion dollars to re-make Houston into something it's not. Groups like Houston Tomorrow will rip large amounts of journalism from behind the pay-wall quoting the Apple Dumpling Gang who will say that the secret to Houston Future is to make it more like what people are currently fleeing in droves.
They won't even realize why that's wrong.