Posts Tagged 'development'

High-Rises Suck

Here’s an idea, okay? Let’s say you’re a developer, right, and you want to make a lot of money by building in West Campus. You know college students and their parents, so used to substandard, below-code housing, will gladly pay a-lotsa, lotsa money for a nice, pretty high-rise. You know, someplace with a gate, and a nice paint job, and whatnot. Some place tall and high-density, so we can pack in lots of students, maybe make room for a pool on the roof.

Luckily for you, the city of Austin has rezoned West Campus to allow you to throw up (if you will) all kinds of new high-rises. Now you can charge $1700 for a two bedroom, poorly made apartment. And lo and behold, people pay it. Frat boys and sorority girls, flush with their parents money–of course, you expected that. But also other people. People who want to live somewhere nice. Or that looks nice, at least, when you show it to them.

And so the arms race starts. I see you making money, and I want in. So I by some land and throw up my own. Someplace like The Block (25th Street, 28th Street, et al) or The Texan (Salado, 25th and Pearl), or Stirling, or Quarters, or Jefferson 26. And so within two years, West Campus is filled with high-rises. Gleaming and sterile, they stretch to the sky from the Drag to Lamar, popping against the sky in bolts of creamy paint.

Except you’ve made a mistake. It’s no one’s fault, really, just a law of economics. It’s called a collective action problem, or the tragedy of the commons. None of us big-money developers wants housing prices in West Campus to crash. But we all have every incentive to throw up as many high-rises as possible. More money, right? So it should come as no surprise to find that we’ve over-saturated the market. And that $1700 you used to be getting from that two-bedroom? Well, now it’s more like $1400. Or less.

Now, we might say, okay, so we’re back where we started. The neighborhood is full of cheap housing. So far, so good.

Except that it’s not. Because what used to be an actual, um, what’s the word, ‘neighborhood,’ with actual houses and whatnot, is now a sea of identical beige monstrosities. They’re ugly, they’re poorly made, they have no character.

So thank you, developers. You’ve made my neighborhood suck just a little bit more.

Bastards.