Throughout my recent stay in Texas, residents would often ask which of its major cities I liked the most–Austin, Dallas, Houston or San Antonio. Residents were curious to hear this, given that I was an outsider living for a month each in all four. They also wanted to know because this is a hot topic in Texas; the four cities have become some of America’s most economically dynamic places, and have ongoing rivalries for food, sports, and cultural cache.
To this point, the question was always less about which city had the best economy, and more about quality of life and street cred–where would I actually want to live?…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
[For the author’s original piece on this subject, click here].
Several months ago, while living in Austin, I wrote a critique of the city’s commuter rail line. In a lengthy op-ed, I described the train as “a monument to government waste” and “perhaps America’s leading rail transit failure.” The reaction was swift and visceral. The article’s comments section filled up with locals both for and against the train. The local press ate it up too, with the article reviewed by the Austin American-Statesman, the Austin Business Journal, and several area blogs.… Read more
Although the United States has had an abnormally slow economy for a decade, there’s no doubting its continued global significance. Between containing one of the world’s largest populations and one of its largest median household incomes, the U.S. has by far the world’s biggest economy. According to 2015 IMF figures, the U.S.’ GDP is $18.5 trillion, 63% higher than 2nd-place China, at $11.3 trillion, and over four times higher than 3rd-place Japan. A recent article by American Enterprise Institute economist Mark Perry shows just where this GDP is centered—America’s largest metros.… Read more
Ciudad Juárez, Mexico–When most people think of Mexico’s border cities, they envision violence and drug smuggling. But if you are willing to risk a visit—and, frankly, it doesn’t feel all that risky once there—you’ll find dynamic urban street settings that are largely unsurpassed in America. From almost the second you cross the bridges into these cities, you leave the suburban sterility of the U.S. and enter an oasis of density, mixed uses, and narrow, crowded streets. Central to this atmosphere are the many brilliant public spaces…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
San Antonio, TX—The dinner party that I hosted in late August, while passing through one night during my 1,000-mile drive between Austin and Phoenix, offered the quintessential combo of old and new San Antonio. I was dining at La Fonda On Main, a San Antonio institution in the historic Alta Vista neighborhood that is famous for its upscale Mexican cuisine. Yet sitting in the restaurant’s back room with me, amid the clatter from the kitchen, was a group that personifies the new San Antonio: 11 professional-class Millennials, selected at random, who are launching their careers in the Alamo City.… Read more
This past Monday, September 26, could prove to be a landmark day in the political discussion about urban America’s housing woes. On that day, the connection between land-use regulations and higher housing costs, long made by urbanist bloggers and think-tankers, was finally acknowledged by a sitting president, when the Obama administration published the report “Housing Development Toolkit.” Rather than echoing past presidential administrations, and thinking up all the ways that the federal government could subsidize homeownership, the report listed why homes are so expensive in the first place: restrictive zoning, bureaucratic delay and other regulations.… Read more
Zoning, along with other NIMBY-inspired housing and land-use regulations, might be the great invisible problem of modern America. Detailed analysis about these regulations is mostly confined to the blogosphere, and maybe a handful of prominent journalists who cover the issue every blue moon. Yet they affect almost every American, making housing more expensive, especially in major metro areas, which contain much of the nation’s people, jobs and GDP. But in recent years, the issue has gained mainstream awareness, and today was acknowledged by the most prominent voice of them all: President Obama…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more
Anyone who has visited San Francisco, and stepped even a block off the beaten path, knows of its homeless problem. The city has an estimated 6,700 street people—the 2nd-highest per capita in the nation—and 1,500 of these are chronically homeless, often dwelling amid the drugs and violence of the Tenderloin district. There is general consensus that this group, filled with people suffering from addiction and mental illness, would benefit from permanent housing. One proposed solution is modular prefab housing that can be cheaply constructed from elsewhere, and shipped into San Francisco.… Read more
[Ed’s note: my latest piece appeared as a sidebar in a larger print essay by Aaron Renn about the urbanization of Texas. The whole essay is worth reading, since it captures the monumental growth taking place in Texas’ four largest metros.]
Dominated by working-class families who’ve lived in the city for generations, San Antonio has long maintained stable demographics. Many Anglos descend from Texas’s early European settlers, while, contrary to public perception of the city as an immigrant hub, many Hispanics are Tejanos—native Texans of Mexican descent—who were born in the city or in the Rio Grande Valley.… Read more
Although micro-housing is not a nationwide phenomenon, it has become a niche option in cities with expensive housing. College students, young professionals, and beginning families, rather than living in the suburbs or cramped with roommates in cities, can live alone in centrally-located apartments that are slightly smaller than the average hotel room, and often have shared common spaces. Starting in 2009, Seattle became a leader in micro-housing development. But as this momentum grew in the Emerald City, NIMBY opposition arose, followed by restrictive regulations. Now these regulations have combined to effectively kill the concept, taking thousands of affordable units off the pricey Seattle market…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more