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Talent Migration Models

March 30, 2011 by Jim Russell

Over the last few weeks, I've been reading research on return migration. I didn't expect to discover so many different theoretical models in play. Some of the debates are the garden variety battle of the paradigms. Consider the matter unsettled. That opens the door for the likes of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of...[read more]

Taxing Density

January 12, 2010 by Chris Bradford

I've owed a comment on this for a while. ROMA, the outfit charged with developing a plan for downtown Austin, has proposed a density bonus ordinance for downtown residential development (available here).   Austin's had a temporary density bonus program since 2007.  ROMA is proposing to make that program permanent. All things...[read more]

The historic landmark tax dodge

December 10, 2009 by Chris Bradford

While scanning today's City Council agenda, I was struck by the number of applications for historic landmark designation. Twenty-five of the 93 agenda items, to be exact. According to City code, the purpose of a historic landmark designation "is to protect, enhance, and preserve individual structures or sites that are of architectural...[read more]

What is urban, and does it matter?

November 24, 2009 by Jonathan Law

I recently saw a dispute between commenters on a blog post over what exactly constituted “urban.” This dispute raised a good point in my mind. Such a discussion is an interesting one, and an important one, on some level. However, discussion of whether or not our cities’ development is “urban” is in dire need of context. It’s cited in...[read more]

Affordable housing densities

June 14, 2009 by Chris Bradford

Austin's freshly minted Comprehensive Housing Market Survey has lots of interesting tidbits.  One is this map depicting Austin's concentrations of housing affordable to households earning between 51% and 80% of median family income.  (The darker the color, the greater the density of affordable housing...[read more]

Wasted opportunity

May 18, 2009 by Chris Bradford

Stassney between South Congress and I-35 is apartment-complex city.  Perhaps a half-dozen giant apartment complexes line one half-mile stretch.  None is older than four or five years. These are the standard suburban set up.  A collection of three-story walk-ups with open breezeways, a pool, a one-story...[read more]

First, figure out how much parking you can build

May 14, 2009 by Chris Bradford

Austin's consultants are turning out reports faster than I can digest them. ROMA's proposal for a permanent density bonus program downtown is worth a read.  The ultimate recommendation -- make residential developments pay bonuses for extra floor space -- is a bad one.  But the report contains some interesting...[read more]

Let's give truckers the wrong incentives

May 6, 2009 by Chris Bradford

I understand that people bitterly oppose tolling roads. I really do. I was discussing congestion pricing the other day with one of my co-workers. I told her that if I were dictator, the first thing I'd do is congestion price I-35.  She told me the first thing she'd do is have my wife put arsenic in my drink. Since she is an...[read more]

Council exempts PUDs from Lady Bird height limits

May 3, 2009 by Chris Bradford

City Council tentatively approved height limits for Lady Bird Lake Thursday night. Very tentatively: it approved the ordinance on first reading only, required courtesy notice to all affected property owners before second reading, and kept the public hearing open.  A couple councilmembers said the ordinance needs more work. The...[read more]

Height limits protect; incentive bonuses restore

April 29, 2009 by Chris Bradford

I expect the Austin City Council tomorrow to adopt "new" height limits for the Lady Bird Lake Waterfront Overlay.   The "new" limits are actually those adopted in a 1986 ordinance but eliminated in a 1999 rewrite of the code. The height limits were the subject of ferocious (and, in my opinion, often misleading)...[read more]

Austin Approves Solar

April 7, 2009 by Kimberly Jarrett

Thursday was encouraging, as the Austin City Council voted 7-0 to continue negotiations with Gemini to build what would be the largest solar power plant in the U.S., a 30-megawatt plant in Webberville.Encouraging because today Austin put goals first, and economic efficiency arguments (which are greatly lacking in street-cred. these days...[read more]

Why developers prefer cul-de-sacs

March 16, 2009 by Chris Bradford

The cul-de-sac layout so ubiquitous in suburban neighborhoods can be partly explained as a collective-action problem.  But any explanation of its dominance must also acknowledge that developers use the cul-de-sac layout because it is cheaper.  Developers get more homes for less asphalt.Take this neighborhood off Convict Hill in southwest...[read more]