Don’t know if you had a chance to read the editorials in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, but there was one in the “Our Town” section entitled, “Celebrate Houston’s Triumphs.” It was written by Edward Glaeser, a Harvard economics professor and director of their Taubman Center for State and Local Government.
In the article, Glaeser delineates some specific reasons for Texas’ explosive growth, dwelling primarily on the availability of affordable housing. He mentions Houston more than once and even refers to The Woodlands — to wit, “The great mass producers of housing are now in places like the Woodlands, the master planned community 30 miles north of central Houston. The Woodlands illustrates how far mass produced housing has come from the boxy conformity of Levittown. The high quality of homes in places like The Woodlands reflects the competition that emerges when developers face relatively few restrictions.”
He goes on to state, “Ironically, Houston’s laissez-faire, pro-growth attitude has allowed red state Texas to provide far more affordable housing than progressive California and Massachusetts. Texas proves that unbridled private supply, not rent control or public housing, is the most effective way to ensure that every American can afford a decent home.
Texas’ unfettered construction also explains why the state has enjoyed stable prices. When demand rises in Texas, developers build and that limits both price increases and subsequent price crashes.”
Okay, I agree with his premise, but having just moved here from a place of unfettered building, and building with few restrictions, I can tell you that there’s more to it than this. Consider Arizona and Nevada. Classic examples of unfettered, maybe even feverish, building all right, but then what happened? They built like crazy and then sold those houses to unqualified people, that’s what happened. Predatory lending happened, and that sucked the life and the wealth right out of their housing markets. Arizona and Nevada weren’t the only places of misery. That’s what happened to us in Tennessee as well. We woke up one morning living in a ghost town. The unqualified buyers were gone, and let me tell you, it was a very sad state of affairs indeed.
That hasn’t happened here so far, and let’s hope it never does. Builders can build to their hearts content, but lets not let them scrape the bottom of the barrel for buyers. Let us hope the millions of people moving here have a job, money in their bank accounts, and enough cash for a respectable down payment when they buy homes. If they don’t, and manage to buy a home anyway, it hurts us all. Evidently, the lending laws are a little more stringent here, and we haven’t had the massive foreclosures seen elsewhere. That’s a very good thing. Lets keep up the good work.