Illustration by Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune.

This week’s roundup includes more on affordable housing concerns across the country, new regulations proposed in the wake of Harvey and what bringing Amazon to Texas might mean.

Welcome to the weekly roundup of notable news, research and commentary on all things urbanism and urban policy from the Sun Belt and beyond. Dive in.

Title Page

New survey of mayors shows most are concerned about lack of affordable housing. Washington Post.

Introduction

How Tenants in D.C. Are Preserving Their Affordable Apartments. Next City.

“Then the owner of Wah Luck House Apartments, one of the last remaining affordable residences in the neighborhood and one of the largest single Chinese-American residences in D.C., decided to sell the building. It could have easily gone to a market rate developer...But the tenants had another option. In D.C., the building couldn’t go straight to the open market. Since 1980, the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act has required that residential tenants in any building up for sale or demolition must be offered the first opportunity to buy the building—either individually as tenants, turning the building into condominiums, or by forming a tenant association and buying the building as a whole, usually in partnership with a developer of their choosing.”

Executive Summary

This week, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said that one of the reasons the city didn’t make the short list for the new Amazon headquarters was because of the state of its transportation systems. And he’s said the city will do a deep dive and convene a summit to discuss the whole thing.

Transportation was indeed one of the things the company said it would prioritize in reviewing bids. But an analysis by Brookings looks at just how transit-oriented some of the finalists actually are and finds many aren’t all that transit-friendly.

“Among the 17 metro areas chosen, fewer than half are transit-and-walking hubs. Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, Austin, and Raleigh all rely almost exclusively on local bus networks to move today’s transit riders. Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Miami can only boast of limited rail networks. And across all nine of these metros, only Pittsburgh sees even 5 percent of its commuters take transit to work,” writes Adie Tomer, fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program.

Now whether this means transit and mobility don’t matter all that much to Amazon in the end or, as Tomer posits, it just means the company sees it as something that can be improved upon later is unclear. But it's fair to assume transportation wasn’t the only thing holding Houston back.

With two other Texas cities still on the table, the Texas Tribune looks at what the state might be willing to do to seal the deal. And while there are certainly some pots of money and incentives to throw around – individual cities can, for example, temporarily waive the state's relatively high property taxes – writes Emma Platoff, history suggests it's possible to bring big business here without having the largest incentive package, which was the case in 2014 when Toyota relocated to Plano.

So which Texas city does the governor prefer? “I’m going to favor Texas,” he said.

Conclusion

“This freewheeling rollout is new for all of us, and constructive criticism is a good thing,” writes Kristen Jeffers over at Greater Greater Washington about the new wave of bikeshare recently launched in Washington, D.C., dockless bikeshare.

Since its launch there have been complaints about people leaving bikes blocking sidewalks, glitchy app service and more, but recently there’s been a wave of folks insisting some of the bikes are getting stolen.

“There’s been a lot of Twitter and comment speculation about whether many of these dockless bikes are stolen — though there’s no proof of that, writes Jeffers. And it isn’t coincidental, Jeffers notes, that these accusations are floating around a system that seems to be popular among teenagers in the city and “as a recent CityLab article pointed out, with black boys in particular.”

So while she says feedback is definitely needed, she added, “...what’s not acceptable is the continued demonization of the companies that have tapped into a need and the people — especially the young black male people — who are taking advantage of this new technology and making it their own.”

Endnotes

Comments

We are currently attempting to sell my wife’s small condo in DC. The District’s overreaching “Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act,” requiring that current (or former) tenants in any property up for sale must be offered the first opportunity to buy the building is too much. The process is long and arduous just to be allowed to list it. I appreciate what this type of law could be used for, but it has created a real problem for owners who ever decide to rent their former homes, and creates a very poor environment for small, individual investment properties. If it did only apply to entire buildings, perhaps it would be a better law, but it also applies to individual condos. I strongly warn any regulating body against mimicking this law.

Forcing owners to wait for tenants to vacate, having to prove that the property is empty (for multiple months), then having to offer any (wanting or unwanting) right of first refusal and wait a minimum of 40 day’s for a reply (our former tenant has in fact moved to NC and has no intention of purchasing it), and then threatening realtors and title companies whose business it is to safely sell and transfer properties is uncalled for. All the while $$$$ is literally being thrown down the drain to pay carrying costs and taxes. It’s all been a very informative yet frustrating experience.

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