Friday, April 6, 2007

Affordable housing?… Try that less regulated big city in Texas …

   Last week I wrote about the effort to limit new apartment construction in the relatively unregulated Houston metro area.  This morning NPR reported on the flip side of Houston housing market –- its low cost of single-family houses and the fact that Houston is not suffering from the rapid slump in new housing starts that so much of the United States is experiencing.  Why is the median price of a house in Houston still only around $150,000, and why are so many of them still being built?

Houstonnight    Houston enjoys a number of low-cost, easy-construction advantages.  For one, “sprawl” is available in all directions –- there are no mountains or seas to limit growth.  Its resource-based economy is doing fairly well in these uncertain times.  And most significant all, of course, is that Houston famously holds (lacks? enjoys?) some of the nation’s loosest development laws, including no comprehensive zoning in the city.  If I were a free market advocate, I might relate the lack of regulation with the ease of new construction … and the fact that Houston is perhaps the most “affordable” of the nation’s very big metro areas.

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