Houston versus California

In my Econ Talk with Russ Roberts on private cities I said this about Houston:

If we think about, what are the best cities in the United States, particularly for the poor, it’s places like Houston, which have no zoning and which have very easy regulatory systems in which you can build. You can get a permit to build within a matter of days, compared to New York where you’ve got to go through a dozen different permitting processes and you have to hire specialized people whose only job is really to stand in line to help you get through the process….So, people of modest means can still buy a house in Houston. And they can’t do that in many other places in the United States because of zoning and not-in-my-backyard rules, a kind of secession of the rich, not in terms of gated communities but in terms of adding on rules and restrictions on how large your lot has to be in order to build a house, how many people can live in the house etc. All of these things have made it extremely expensive to buy in any of these cities, which use more top down planning.

The Economist illustrates with a remarkable statistic comparing Houston with all of California:

Unlike most other big cities in America, Houston has no zoning code, so it is quick to respond to demand for housing and office space. Last year authorities in the Houston metropolitan area, with a population of 6.2m, issued permits to build 64,000 homes. The entire state of California, with a population of 39m, issued just 83,000.

Comments

When folks are leaving, there is no need to build.

Isn't it a bit of a stretch to compare a state to a city? The reason Google/Facebook/Tech buses go from Ess Eff to Mountain View / Menlo Park is not because the state prohibits building in those cities, it's the cities themselves. And those city councils do so because they want the more tax friendly office space that require fewer services than dense housing. Of course the residents like it too because it reduces traffic, retains viewsheds, doesn't require disruptive infrastructure upgrades. It is not some evil conspiracy by malicious state government overlords that prevent buildings from being erected, it's municipal nabobs doing the bidding of those who got theirs and frankly don't care about you. Oh and don't forget that Prop 13 also applies to business and commercial properties. HP and Oracle (among others) have huge advantages over start-ups, and leverage those to their benefit too.

When one city has almost as many new construction projects as a state that is notable. That is the reason the comparison was made. Don't get me wrong the Economist is the worst-- I'd much rather eras the Socialist Review frankly, but that's why the comparison was made.

The Economist is citing the US Census Building Permits Survey, based off a survey of local building permit officials who are asked to estimate the number of building permits they issued for new housing units. Everyone seems to be taking the numbers as fact without checking the primary source.

The City of Houston provides public access to their permits. A quick search shows they issued about 90k building permits for residential projects in total for '14; ~14% were for the construction of new housing units and only about half of these referenced structural work.

Conservatively, I think you could say the entire City of Houston issued less than 10,000 building permits for the construction of new residential housing units. Even if the non-incorporated parts of Harris County accounted for the same number, I'm still not sure how you get to 64k new housing units in the metro area.

So you are saying that progressives, who infest California and dominate the local government are actually people who "got theirs and frankly don't care about you"?

Well I have to agree. They are evil scum.

Houston is the worst. Don't move here. It's 100 degrees all year round and we are all a bunch of stupid rednecks. Heck just last night me and my friends burnt the last museum and library left to the ground.

Apparently we also say things like "me burnt" so complete wasteland. Please for own good (not mine I swear) stay where you live.

Thread winner!

I looked quickly and thought it said Sam Houston.

I've spent time in Houston, and talked to Houstonian's, not suburbians. If you like building a house, or remodeling one, and next year someone builds a car repair shiop, or cement factory, next to you, Houston is just the place for you.

In fact, if you do not like zoning, please tell your neighbors so they can build a second house right next to you,, up to the property line, and imagine you are living in Houston.

Exactly. Houston sucks. Why do you guys keep moving here?

For the lesbian mayor? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annise_Parker

She's Batman...

I thought the Left loved mixed use developments. Then when the Nimbys are actually in power they make updating existing neighborhoods into mixed use communities impossible.

The point of zoning is to keep your property values stable. No more new construction to risk introducing Those Other People into your school district.

Given that Prop 13 virtually guarantees that all modestly priced housing will be generate a net burden on the town, why would the Fine People of Palo Alto or Huntington Beach ever want to allow new construction?

I am in awe of your ability to turn any conversation into a diatribe against people you disagree with.

To be fair to Cooper, Prop 13 is the single most destructive thing about California governance, besides the omnipotent and trivially corrupted voter initiative process that passed it.

You can in theory, in law, sue a person who builds a cement factory next to your house, if you were there before the factory, under the theory of "nuisance". But the catch is you must sue quickly, if you wait too long, you are deemed to waive your rights. Also, you cannot sue if you are there after the factory, that's known as "coming to the nuisance". So it all works out. The problem is, courts are expensive, so usually only the rich like me can do stuff like this.

Good luck with that. I live in Houston, actually Sugar Land, and any court in the area would laugh you out of the room. If you can't handle the risk of a cement plant or topless club next door, buy in a planned community, that's why they exist.

You are correct, amazingly (to some) the free market is incredibly innovative at coming up with solutions to the risks that "zoning" is supposed to prevent. Some communities in Houston have very detailed restrictions on what you can do, like modifying your house or even the color of your door. Others have none. You can pick and chose which is best for you.

"What allow people to choose? But they might make the wrong choice". .... Head explodes.

In the long run what how are these covanents enforced? A city coucil dominated by NIMBYs is just a particularly traditional and powerful type of homeowner association. So if gated comunities are strong and able to enforce the covenant, then is that any better than city-council zoning. On the other hand, if the private comunities are weak, then will they be able to enforce the covanents?

This is so silly. Sure, it can happen. But there aren't cement factories popping up on every corner. And you might get a nice hipster coffee shop or restaurant within walking distance instead.

Just buy a house deep in a neighborhood if you are so worried.

But I agree with Sam. Don't come here, it sucks.

This is allowed and yet almost never happens. Nobody builds one house at a time in some random spot. Builders build entire developments at a time that are rather large on new acres of land. You don't need zoning to tell you that a new house next to a strip club won't sell for beans so you better not build one there.

You'll like Houston if you like traffic, stifling humidity & mildew, cheap ugly buildings as far as the eye can see, & smelly oil refineries. I guarantee no one posting pro-Houston comments here lives next to a cement factory or machine shop; I doubt you'll find anyone here speaking from the *experience* of living in a mixed residential/manufacturing neighborhood. Those areas are not pretty, are not healthy places to live or raise children, & are populated by poor folks who can't afford to live in neighborhoods where restrictive property-owner-association covenants do the job that zoning does in more enlightened cities. The reason Houston is growing is because of (a) oil & its entrenched, government-subsidized economics, and (b) decline of the middle class: people in the US getting poor & desperate, so a zoning-free hellhole where you can put up a shanty to call home is now an attractive proposition. I don't find either of these factors worth bragging about, and they certainly portend anything good for the future of the USA. P.S. I lived in Houston for 5 years during a previous oil boom...& despite wishful thinking re the city no longer having a boom-&-bust economy, I guarantee there won't be any rosy stories about Houston next year when the current bust has really set in.

"a zoning-free hellhole where you can put up a shanty to call home is now an attractive proposition."

Yes, let's keep the impoverished riff-raff in the homeless shelters where they belong. People sleeping in parked cars are less objectionable to liberal sensitivities than brown people walking through the cul-de-sac and living in the crappy bungalow next door. And who wants an auto repair facility in the neighborhood, especially when their Volvo is unlikely to need repairs before it's time to trade it in for a new one? In Sun City, AZ, the garbage cans are hidden from sight in recessed silos on the garage apron so the neighbors don't have to look at one's discarded coffee grounds and egg cartons. Guys like you want to shove what they consider the unpleasantries of life to another location so the sanctity of the property to which they hold the dubious rights won't be compromised. They want to determine not only what happens on their own property but also on that owned by strangers with other ideas.

I make no apologies for not wanting to get familiar with your garbage.

Are cement factories the new liberal bogeyman or something? Never seen one in Houston.

Refineries are way outside of where most people live.

And what's wrong with living near poor people?

Factories turning out Portland cement by the truckload are out. Artisanal workshops turning out Portlandia cement by the 5-lb. bag are in.

I think that you are wildly overstating your case when you call cities that pursue a policy objective of making housing as expensive as possible "enlightened" and Houston a "hellhole". A city could, for example, have more restrictive mixed use development with residential development and any commercial or industrial business that didn't pass nuisance thresholds; not restrict density as density restrictions do indeed maximize property values by restricting supply; and having enough space for heavier industrial activities relatively nearby. Most importantly, the city policy could require permits be issued to any developer that meets the standard quickly instead of making everything a public fight.

I live in the Houston suburbs about 4 miles from a couple of cement factories. A parking lot of one factory has 3000-square-foot houses just beyond the privacy wall. The factory was there long before the houses. That factory must not be such a horrible neighbor.

In defense of community associations doing many of the things that city councils and zoning commissions have traditionally done elsewhere, I think I'd rather negotiate with volunteers who live within a mile or two of me instead of with some bureaurocrat.

I've got a good friend -- living within 10 minutes of downtown -- who swears Houston is great. Not just good, but great. In particular the small foreign neighborhoods that have sprung up around downtown have made the food scene particularly attractive. Also, taking in a professional athletic event is not the PIA that many other cities seem to make it.

If your friend lives within 10 minutes of downtown Houston (i.e. inside 610), he lives in a hell-hole, an apartment/condo, or has more money (or debt) than God. You can live a nice life almost anywhere on the later.

I know many people within 10 minutes of downtown.
Yes, several condos or rentals.

But a house in this area is still on the low end compared to California. For $400k its very doable. And with continuing build it will continue to be so.

I lived on the Rice U. campus 3 miles southwest of downtown Houston in 1976-1980. It was very nice, especially because you got to leave in mid-May.

I think you need to double check the Economist data.

According to the California Building Industry Association there were 85,315, building permits issued in Calif in 2014.

The Texas A&M Real Estate Center reports that 95,201 building permits were issued in all of Texas in 2014.

This says Texas issued some 11.5% more permits than California.

If Houston issued 64,000 permits that would be 75% of all the permits issued in Texas.

I seriously doubt that.

Yes, it looks like Houston's starts were at 28,000 for 2014.
For California to compare, they would need to be at 176,000. More than twice the number.

This web site tends to be unconcerned about actual facts.

The Economist? Yes, agreed.

Thank God someone is questioning the numbers.

The Economist is pulling these numbers from the Census Building Permits Survey, which is based of a sample of local building permit officials. I mentioned this in the thread but if you look at the actual permits issued by Houston for new housing units, you are nowhere near the Census estimate.

While Houston doesn't have city ordinances, the city does help enforce private deed restrictions. City rules also do provide ways to create lot-size restrictions and other methods to prevent the development of multi-family residential units. It's not like Houston is devoid of NIMBYism. The rich areas have their deeds and lawyers to keep out the unwanted or unsightly. Whereas that may be a city-wide policy in other places, in Houston it's limited to the private contracts of the neighborhoods. I think the 7 year fight over the Ashby Highrise is a good testament to that. Sure, you can put an oil derrick next to a poor person's house, but it's a very different story if you dare attempt to put up an apartment building in a well-to-do suburban area. If that's not "secession of the rich," I don't know what is.

The rich have always moved to lower-density, nicer areas and pulled the ladders up behind them. Wealthy Californians have taken advantage of geography and the environmental movement to safeguard their property values for decades. That's the whole point of making more money, after all: to buy nicer things. I don't have a problem with that, but I have a problem with the rich lobbying for public policies which have consequences that people further down the totem pole won't have enough money to move away from.

This is a perfect example of modern day liberalism. In order to protect the egregious development/policing/school segregation policies in the playgrounds of the left, exceptions like the Ashby Highrise are made into the issue so that cities with better policies are presented as somehow worse.

New construction in the area around the proposed Ashby Highrise is ubiquitous. Highrises are patricilarily ill suited to Houstons existing layout so that particular construction project has encountered some road blocks. But the facts remain that Houston is infinitelty better suited to middle class needs than NYC just as Madison arrests blacks with higher proportionality than Ferguson. Making it about Michael Brown or the Ashby Highrise is a rhetorical strategy to insulate left wing privilege from critique by beating up on middle class Red Staters.

Note the subtle flip from "zoning is good in Cali" to "deed restrictions are bad I'm Houston."

Pretty ironic to talk about Ashby high rise and West U in the context of anything remotely middle-class. It's class warfare, wealthy vs. wealthier (see http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-search/77005 ). Anyone middle-class would have already been forced to just suck it up and move.

All these people who say Houston is some libertarian construction utopia don't seem to actually know much about it. Or live there.

Nice strawman. I don't see anyone suggesting that Houston "is some libertarian construction utopia". I see people saying it has better zoning laws, and better outcomes from the zoning laws in place, than California. Which seems quite correct, wouldn't you agree? (Unless you are a rich guy in California who hate poor people, of course, in which case Californian zoning restrictions are clearly superior.)

@Nylund-- see my comment upstream. This is not so much succession of the rich as the fact courts are expensive and most poor don't sue, just shoot you or engage in a fistfight. Unless you believe courts are tools of the rich.

Houston does have ordinances, plenty of them, just not zoning. And there is a no-drilling ordinance within the city limits. But let's not let facts get in the way. Carry on.

Yes. There are ordinances. Which are good right? Can never have enough laws.

Anyways, nice try. But no. There are some deed restrictions but it is nowhere near as restrictive as California.

Not Houston, rather Sugar Land, but I'm virtually certain that my deed restrictions are more detailed, and likely as onerous as, any CA zoning laws.

Whatever it takes to protect your warped sense of social justice, Bill. Poor people should live in large gray blocks built by the state, rich people can live in historic city centers.

Alex: flat, empty, no discernible vistas, soulless strip malls galore? Why stop in Houston? Texas is business friendly, affordable, and has great zoning rules! Why don't you put some skin in the game and move there if you really mean it? ;)

Galveston beaches are a big, Sonic Burger eating obese, dump. What exactly does one "see" in Houston? Those Obummer votin dirty haired libruls in Commie-California can keep their overpriced rules and picturesque beaches and state parks. It ain't a beach if their ain't oil derrick residue on it! Muslim-socialist Obummer jack booted EPA thugs aren't gonna keep me from rollin coal

You're pretty much making the conservative-libertarian case: Blue State, highly regulated areas are great so long as you're a wealthy liberal. Red State, low regulated areas are better for the proles, with cheaper housing and lower barriers to employment.

Yes TX is cheap, but we will see the economic conditions of oil dependent areas in TX from the oil bust fallout.

TX, free market, like the $40 million taxpayer paid grant it gave to Toyota? ;)

Fun fact: Toyota was budgeting for losing up to 70% of its workforce in its move from CA to TX.
http://jalopnik.com/toyota-afraid-it-could-lose-70-of-workforce-in-move-to-1659584799

Thomas Franks got it all wrong. The real rubes in American politics aren't the lower-middle and middle class Red State Christians that support the GOP, but the low-tier social justice warriors like jk who, with the intensity of a chubby girl defending her first boyfriend, defend the California plutocrats. jk who will never have a beachfront home, nor likely a beach vacation for that matter is ready to mount the barricades for Barbara Streisand's right to a beachfront palace with an unsullied view. What's the matter with low-status leftist?

"with the intensity of a chubby girl defending her first boyfriend"

Awesome turn of a phrase.

Sorry, I'm not a leftist, I don't live in CA, in fact, I don't live in the US!

People have career spouses, family networks and kids. It's not easy to pick up and move these days. I doubt most people aren't moving because of sneering at Texas per se.

" It’s not easy to pick up and move these days."

Probably it's easier than it's ever been. Thousands do it daily and still manage to get their mail and even keep up with the in-laws.

Middle to upper middle class people are a lot more reluctant to move than in the Postwar Era. Two career couples make it harder to move. Plus, people don't really like moving away from their family and friends.

Getting transferred to the Spokane office of your corporate employer in 1955 didn't seem so hard because your wife didn't need to get a job in Spokane too, plus getting transferred to Spokane sounded better than getting transferred to Iwo Jima or the Chosin Reservoir like Uncle Sam had spent much of the last 14 years doing to you.

One the other hand, you gloss over the following disadvantage to living in Houston:

It's fucking Houston.

I've visited. Ugh. If you want to make a laid back regulatory system seem like a desirable thing, don't pick examples where desirable places are your villains, and Houston is your paradise.

Another argument that should be used sparingly: Pare back on your zoning laws so that your city can become more like Houston! That sounds soo compelling!

There was a magic hand waive that glossed over the crimes stats in the cost-benefit analysis for how awesome Houston is. Spoiler: It's not exactly a major selling point

I also know some oil derricks in ND that were hiring and were paying good money (well maybe not so much now).

Magic hand waving about illegal immigrant underclasses. Again, from liberal enclaves of wealth, power, and snobbery, such things aren't even real.

If we are talking solely about the effect of zoning restrictions on the poor, then your subjective evaluation of how much Houston sucks is irrelevant. I think the desire to live indoors is slightly more important than the quality of the coffee shops and Thai restaurants, and the walkability of the city.

No. Better Walmart be dead than the poor eat.

I agree. I didn't even like Austin, and that place is supposed to be awesome even to the left.

Houston absolutely has a zoning code, they just don't call it that. While they don't restrict building based on type, the minimum parking requirements are extremely determinative (and restrictive) of what is feasible to be built.

I think it is great news that Houston will allow construction of ultra-cheap micro-apartment skyrises next door to oil refineries and cement plants. This gives the poor a place to move to as they are forced out of many other cities that have been socially engineered for rising housing prices.

The upper classes want to drive the poor away from them in order to construct safe and gentrifiying urban neighborhoods. Anyone who is going to mug, rob, murder, or drive cars without proper mufflers has got to go. Bye bye minimum wage workers.

Not sure serious, but suburb apartments in Houston are cheap enough.

One of the upsides to living next to an oil refinery must certainly be that you needn't live in a micro apartment. You can still have a backyard and above-ground pool (even if it's flanked by two growling pit bulls).

Houston sounds like New York of a bygone era.

I think Houston is great for zoning, as an example of why you don't need it. But I don't know much about it, and gave up on them when they ditched the Houston Oilers franchise. Kind of like I gave up on DC when they moved the baseball Senators to Texas, and when they gave up the name "Bullets" for their basketball team. Wizards, pfft.

Houston didn't have a building boom as large as California. A better analysis would look at vacancy rates.

Assuming, arguendo, this article's main point survives, it may explain the high cost of California real estate - deliberate restriction of supply. It also helps explain homelessness.

I lived in Houston for 7 years and we loved it. And I have lived all over the world, in some of the most spectacular locations going. The thing about Houston is that it is a great place to live but a terrible place to visit. Good cities for visiting include spectacular downtowns, nice walkable areas, historical sites and public transport systems (preferably subways). The problem is that these things look good, but cost money. And most city dwellers won't use them very regularly. Its like having a nice front room, that you use only once per year. Houston doesn't have much of these amenities, so visitor impressions are negative.

Houston focuses on making the suburban life work best instead of the central zone. You can have an amazing house, pool etc, for very little money. Restaurants are great, as is all kinds of shopping. The weather sucks from May to October, but the rest of the year its very nice. I would rather the Houston summer than the Boston winter.

Most importantly of all - almost anyone can get a job there and live the middle class life if they want to.

"Most importantly of all – almost anyone can get a job there and live the middle class life if they want to."

Boy how I wish that could be true.

If it were there'd be at least 20 or 30 million Americans on their way to Houston tomorrow and I'd be one of them.

What do we mean by "middle-class life" these days?

I lived in LA for twelve years and have family in Palo Alto, so I understand the despicable elements of zoning for the rich in California. But Houston? Somehow loose zoning doesn't seem like it makes up for the nauseating culture, awful weather, ugly as hell city, and masses of Bible thumping backwards Texans.

The aversion to low-rent, Bible thumping, backwards people is precisely the reason wealthy Californians enact strict zoning and environmental regulation. It's also why Mark Zuckerberg, who thinks you need more--and more diverse--neighbors, buys 4 houses around himself and a 700 acre plantation in the middle of the Pacific. Liberalism is expensive and keeps out the riff-raff; that's why wealthy liberals promote it.

Speaking of expensive coastline, I'm reminded of Paul Romer's scheme to charter a city for his wealthy IT friends in Honduras. Why Honduras? Why not just schmooze some state legislators who speak English and are perfectly happy to provide you with all sorts of tax exemptions and deductions? The court system is better too, and you are much less likely to be hacked to death by your workers when you tell them you're not hiring their cousins or they're not getting a raise this year. The answer, of course, is Honduras has beautiful Caribbean coastline. Lots of high-sounding policy initiatives are, not coincidentally, good ways to assure high property values.

This thread is pretty representative of how the liberal elite have tiptoed away from the working class and economic populism. You can generalize and stereotype about lower economic classes in ways that are now forbidden when the subject is ethnic minorities.

Houston and TX in general have a huge negative externality that causes many accidents, crime, pollution, broken windows (in the James Q. Wilson sense) and general eyesore: Rednecks. Houston is also near a failed state that is ready to burst at anytime come the next disaster (LA not MX).

I'll call a dump for what it is. By the same argument, why aren't people moving to India or China in droves from the US if they could live like kings? Better yet, Somalia has great opportunities and ZERO restrictions. People could retire at 30 from the US if they think Houston is the pinnacle of US civilization.

I don't care about where people choose to live. If they want to live in the ghetto and save money, go ahead. It seems this thread is about some meaningless generalization that "Houston is better than California" because its cheaper to live there.

The point being made is that Houston is better than California if you're a prole redneck: you can get a decent place to live, employment prospects for the trades are good, and the taxes are lower. If you're a wealthy liberal, California is much nicer, and liberal California policy is designed to keep it that way.

One of the differences is that Houston is in a position to sprawl on for years, while California -- Southern California in particular -- has filled to the point where they are dodging around mountains and federal land holdings.

The commenters who write that California is shrinking are simply wrong -- from 2010, California's absolute population growth of 1.5M is second only to Texas' 1.8M. Florida, at 1.1M, is the only other state in the same class with them.

Houston has more employees working in science, technology, engineering and math, more than any other city in the nation - more than in LA or Silicon Valley. When it comes to R&D, no place in California compares to Houston. Ya'll had a few 20 year olds come up with a sexy new I-Phone and a few app companies... Bless your precious little hearts ;)

40 facts about Houston that will blow ya'll away:

1. Houston is the most racially and ethnically diverse city in the nation - even more diverse than New York City.
2. Houston is the only major metropolitan area with a lesbian mayor, in spite of it's "redneck" image, and the annual gay pride parade has about 200,000 people in attendance.
3. Houston is the home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other city except New York City, which is twice it's size.
4. Houston has the second largest theater district, with more seats than another city, except New York City, which is twice it's size.
5. Houston has the largest concentration of healthcare workers than any other city in America.
6. Houston boasts the largest medical center in the world.
7. Houston is considered the "Energy Capital" of the world, not just for for oil and gas - over 5,000 energy related companies are headquartered in Houston.
8. Houston's unemployment rate is consistently below the national average.
9. The Port of Houston handles more tonnage than any other port in the nation.
10. The Greater Houston Area exports more goods and services than any other metropolitan area in the nation.
11. The cost of living is so low, that a paycheck in Houston will buy you more than in any other city in the nation.
12. There was absolutely no "housing bubble" in Houston - in part because of the extremely lax / no zoning laws.
13. Houston has more parks than most cities in the nation, behind only San Diego and Dallas.
14. Houston has one of the largest museum districts in the nation.
15. The school of business at the University of Houston boasts more Fortune 500 CEO alumni than any other university in the nation.
16. If Houston were an independent nation, it would have the world's 30th largest economy. The Greater Houston Area would boast the 21st largest economy! - The Houston area is known as "boom town" and boasts a Gross Area Product larger than than the GDP of nations like Austria, Poland, and Saudi Arabia!
17. Houston has more than 11,000 restaurants, and Houstonians eat out more than any other city in the nation.
18. "Houston" was the first word spoken on the moon.
19. 92 countries keep consular offices in Houston, and more than 90 languages are spoken in Houston.
20. Houston has more than 40 institutions of higher education.

I am suspicious as to whether any of the negative comments are from folks who've spent any time in Houston.

I grew up in California, moved to Houston, and have since moved all around the country.

1. Houston is hot, humid, and horrid for the 6 months of summer. Houston's summer vs. Boston winters that hit -30? I'll take Boston winters. But most folks don't agree. The 60 degree New Years make up for the 95/95 July.
2. Houston is ugly and flat. That has to do with location and geography...not city policy. I don't think Most of LA is any prettier, except it's set on stunning california coastal hills.

OTOH,

3. Houston is a multi-racial mecca -- better race relations than I've seen anywhere else in the country/world (excepting places with only 3 non-dominant race token members). This from a mixed-race marriage
4. Houston is the most business-oriented city I've ever been to. Color, religion, party? Whatever...can we do business together?
5. Houston is the most success-by-hard-work place I've ever been too...almost everyone in Houston (accurately) believes you can get to be well off if you bust your butt.
6. Houston is by far the most affordable major city I've lived in in the states.
7. As per the prior commenter...Houston has a fabulous restaurant selection...and at all price ranges. Competitive with Chicago/DC.

I think this says more about Houston than anything else here:

http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/remediation/superfund/sites/county/harris.html

Keep in mind that the rest of the picture isn't much prettier:

http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2011/11/07/mapping-poisoned-places-in-texas/

Bear in mind that zoning regulations are not the same thing as environmental regulations. Emissions from manufacturing sites can be forbidden without forbidding the manufacturing activity itself, including those activities that deal with hazardous materials and where care must be taken to not emit and to recycle them.

Ricky West - It's funny you should put those links up there. LA actually looks much worse. Houston is being compared to the entire economy of California, in terms of it's robust and growing nature... That's the humor in this article.

I'm not saying it's utopia for everyone, or even that I'm currently living in Houston, but after spending most of my time there post-2003, I'll throw down in favor of Houston against most places in the US:

1. Way more comfortable during winter than Colorado
2. Amazingly cosmopolitan and international, in a way that only a couple of endavours anywhere on the planet can create. The Menil is not in NYC for a reason, and yes, they could have easily put it in NYC, Schlum used to have offices in NYC.
3. Vital, booming city brimming with many of the most amazing people you'll ever meet.
4. Very affordable.
5. The Med Center has its own orchestra.
6. The biggest art car parade in North America, possible on the planet.
7. It's not Dallas.

And so on, ad infinitum. Really, if you don't like where you're living, it's your own damn fault. Move, or figure out how to enjoy where you are at the moment until you can move where you want to be.

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