Thursday, February 16, 2017

On Ora Houston, Gentrification, and Unintended Consequences....

"Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the Lord is not among you."
Numbers 14:42

This is such a depressingly terrible idea:
A proposal from Austin City Council Member Ora Houston could dramatically affect the redevelopment of East Austin by imposing new height restrictions on future projects to protect certain views of the state Capitol. 
Houston’s proposal for five new Capitol view corridors comes as developers increasingly eye East Austin for high-rise development, fueling fears about further change in this once-working class part of town.

“This whole conversation, this whole wanting to have some visual history of the relationship between black East Austin and the Capitol started back in 2015,” said Houston, who was inspired by the fight over the once-proposed One Two East development, which would have built a pair of apartment towers on the east side of Interstate I-35 at 12th Street. Those towers, she said, would have been a “vertical barrier, just like some people see I-35 as a horizontal barrier.”

People in different parts of East Austin need the same kind of views of our Capitol as other people have,” she added.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
No council member, "people in different parts of East Austin" (like everyone citywide) need 150,000 units of new housing to reverse the trend of ever increasing housing costs we've seen over the past decade; it's economics 101, as supply goes up, price goes down.

'Views of the Capitol' are irrelevant to this discussion.

Still, it's interesting to see who's supportive:
Her bid is co-sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Leslie Pool, Kathie Tovo and Alison Alter.
It's not difficult to understand why Tovo, Pool, and Alter [sidenote: Where's Ann Kitchen?!?] support this: This is a typical Austin Neighborhood Council initiative to use any excuse in the book to maintain high housing prices for existing homeowners.  Likewise, Adler's motivation is easy to discern: complicated regulations on the front end grease the skids for shady subsidies on the back end.  Still, Houston's support for this disappointing.

Here's the thing: The reason the East Side is gentrifying at such a rapid pace is because the affluent NIMBY's at the Austin Neighborhoods Council have made it impossible to build anything in Central Austin.  That impossibility pushes housing demand out to the East Side, which prices existing residents out of their homes.  Once again, Economics 101: if demand goes up, and supply is artificially held constant, price goes up.

This isn't rocket surgery.

Bottom Line: Council member Houston's proposal can only make gentrification on the east side worse...and it's straight up depressing that someone who should know better fails to grasp this obvious point.

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