San Francisco’s Bureaucracy, Unions Stifle Modular Housing For Homeless

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

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

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Home, Away From Home

[Originally printed in City Journal]

 

[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

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microhousing-evolution

Seattle Is Regulating Away Micro-Housing

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

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

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San Antonio’s Key to Economic Success: Immigrants

[Originally printed in Governing Magazine]

 

The typical view of an immigrant in this country is not far removed from the image of thousands of people pouring in to Ellis Island in the early 1900s — people with little money to their names and big dreams of making their fortunes in America. That view is still true in many ways, but it’s also true that many of today’s immigrants are well-to-do international elites. For instance, in Miami — long associated with Cubans arriving by raft — there are now a lot of rich South Americans.… Read more

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Why Is Austin’s Housing More Expensive Than Other Texas Cities?

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

Austin, TX–There is a similar narrative driving all four of Texas’ big metros, and it is a positive one. Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio have, since 2000, been among the nation’s leading major metros for economic and population growth. But, surprisingly, this growth has severely influenced housing prices in only one of them. Median home values in metro Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio, while increasing, remain, according to Zillow, below or just above the national median of $187,300. The Austin metro, however, has median home values of $254,500, and the city proper is Texas’ 2nd most expensive home-buying market, trailing only the beach town of Galveston.… Read more

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Zoning: America’s Local Version Of Crony Capitalism

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

When people hear “crony capitalism,” they usually envision corporatist policy at the higher levels of government. It might be the federal Export-Import bank subsidizing Boeing, or Nevada granting Tesla tax breaks. But perhaps the most common form is the kind occurring in your own backyard. In many U.S. municipalities, zoning codes have evolved from reasonable public protections into regulatory cobwebs that benefit the rich over the poor. If a crony system is, according to Investopedia, one where “instead of success being determined by a free market and the rule of law, the success of a business is dependent on the favoritism that is shown to it by the ruling government,” then zoning is cronyism’s localized version…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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America’s Ugly Strip Malls Were Caused By Government Regulation

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

There is a common architectural language that I’ve found while traveling America. The most interesting part of any city is generally its downtown, with historic buildings and narrow streets. But drive a couple miles—or in small towns, several blocks—in any direction, and the terrain quickly devolves. Major roadways turn into strip malls fronted with parking lots and endless stretches of chain retail. These strip-mall arterials exist nationwide, robbing cities of their appeal. The common wisdom is that they result from “the market,” as monuments to American capitalism and consumerism.… Read more

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Washington, DC’s Zoning Regulations Target ‘Fast Casual’ Restaurants

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

It’d be hard to find any one news story that fully captures the ironies and biases driving America’s zoning regulations. These laws were justified a century ago by property owners who wanted to expel undesirable people and uses. They have since evolved into Kafkaesque legal webs that often keep out any use, including well-liked ones. But this evolution was captured pretty well in a recent story out of Washington, DC, where laws designed to prevent fast food chains are now blocking trendy ‘fast casual’ restaurants–and could be selectively changed to help the latter, but not the former…[read the rest at Forbes]… Read more

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Tokyo’s Affordable Housing Strategy: Build, Build, Build

[Originally published by Forbes]

 

For urbanites living in America’s most expensive cities, it must seem like there’s no solution to the affordable housing crisis. They look around and see numerous construction cranes, only to discover that these new units are, like much of the existing stock, beyond their price range. This, however, amounts to an anecdotal observation on their part. It may seem like there is a lot of construction in destination cities such as New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. But these cities still aren’t building to the pace of their population growth.… Read more

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Watch Scott’s Two TV Appearances On Austin’s Local News

Last week, I published articles about two hot-button Austin issues, Austin’s Commuter Rail Is A Monument To Government Waste and Austin Needs to Unleash Sixth Street. The articles got a lot of views and comments, leading to back-to-back nightly TV appearances on KVUE, Austin’s local ABC affiliate.

The articles also got much local print commentary, both negative and positive:

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