Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Debunking Texas Exceptionalism: De-Regulation Will Not Save Us

Houston has a de facto zoning problem.

Theme: Geographic stereotypes

Subject Article: "Forget What You’ve Heard, Houston Really Does Have Zoning (Sort Of)."

Other Links: 1. "No Old Maps Actually Say 'Here Be Dragons'."
2. "Houston, New York Has a Problem: The southern city welcomes the middle class; heavily regulated and expensive Gotham drives it away."
3. "Debunking Texas Exceptionalism."
4. "The Shapes of Cities."

Postscript: Unfortunately, ideological thinking drives a lot of academic inquiry. Density is good. Sprawl is bad. Deregulation is good. Big government is bad. The facts are made to fit an a priori conclusion. The author over-interprets the data. I'm most sensitive to the use of normative geographies. Houston's lack of zoning doesn't make the city exceptional. What makes the metro so active to the middle class? Sprawl. Density bad. Sprawl good. See what I mean?

1 comment:

Allen said...

The condo building seems like a good example of the somewhat free market at work. What we have is a location that is in extremely high demand. Big old mansions mixed with very new mansions built by tearing down smaller housing.

The ruling wasn't that the high rise couldn't be built. It was acknowledging that the nature of the building would slightly hurt the other properties. Both sets of property owners are still allowed to have their property.

How would zoning change this? If zoned to allow for such a building, their would be no compensation available for damage to other properties. If wasn't allowed, where would the new housing go? This area is in high demand and few if any locations available for such a property.

And this is where the talk of ideologies comes into place. The biggest one here is that the people in the neighborhood should be allowed to dictate how their neighborhood exists.

Why is this? What does society gain from this? It's not a static world. As the world changes, neighborhoods should change.

Most importantly in terms of preconceptions that we should take on is the idea of planning and zoning working. Does it really work all that well? I don't know but I can think of all sorts of planning cases that have gone wrong. One neighborhood the planners slate for development, like east downtown of Minneapolis, goes no where for decades despite planning for it. In the meantime, neighborhoods that weren't planned to have more density, like NeHe ( Near Hennipen ) take off.

Or what of the case of Woodbury MN that back in the 70s / 80s, planned for large growth. They built out infrastructure, the growth didn't occur for another generation, and in the meantime current taxpayers were saddled with debt.

How much of a difference does planning really make? If Houston doesn't look much different than any other city doesn't that speak to how little of a difference zoning is making? After via regulatory capture, developers are bound to build where they most want to in the end, no? Maybe the real Houston story isn't that there isn't a silver bullet but that zoning is sort of planning theater ( a la the TSA's security theater ). It makes us feel good but really accomplishes bupkiss.