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WAZ last won the day on April 4 2010

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  1. Fair enough. NIMBYs get a bad rap anyway. I'd rather fight for my neighborhood, and bear that label, than flee at the first sight of unwanted development. We do agree that Texas has mis-handled the LIHTC program, though I think we disagree on how.
  2. Well, yes and no. Low Income Housing Tax Credits are a government subsidy, just like welfare is a government subsidy. Housing built with the credits typically must accept Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), which is a welfare program. But LIHTC is not itself, welfare. That said, I'm once again reminded of why I stopped cross-posting from my blog to HAIF. A handful of regulars (Niche is one of them) have made it virtually impossible to have a good discussion here. It's pretty difficult to talk about the finer points of the LIHTC program with someone who says that those opposed to it are "unprincipled NIMBYs."
  3. The best way to oppose (or support) the developments is to go to the TDHCA hearings for them. If you go to the TDHCA website or read the notification letters they send out, you should be able to find the date, time, and location of the hearings (though they might not have set it yet). The more people in attendance, the better. Last year they actually separated out a particularly contentious development, because so many people were there to oppose it. Writing letters also works. It's best to do both. I'll be there to oppose a development they want to do at the corner of South Gessner and Fondren Meadow.
  4. Does anyone know someone in Houston who restores mid century appliances?
  5. WAZ

    Drainage tax

    The fees were always just a small part of the Rebuild Houston campaign. The bigger thing was that we would have a dedicated fund for road and drainage repairs. So they could have raised taxes to pay for it; or cut spending like you said. Personally, I'd like to see them drop the fees down to the originally promised $5 average, and then close the gaps in two ways: 1: Get a cut of the fees for vehicles registered in the City of Houston. As I have said from the beginning, Rebuild Houston is not just about drainage. It's about roads, too. So why not get money from automobile registrations? The Green folks would love it, too - since they want people to have fewer cars. 2: Due to a fluke in State Law, private universities are required to be exempt from the fee. The City needs to take a lead from Boston MA, and aggressively seek voluntary payments from the Universities, to help cover what should be their share of the fees. (The "payments" could be that the Universities actually use their own money and contractors to repair public roads and drainage through and around campus).
  6. My answer: Buses. Right now, it's pretty easy to get an express bus from almost anywhere in Houston to Downtown. But if you're trying to get somewhere other than downtown, it's a lot more difficult. We could fix that.
  7. But there's a lot more to making Houston more walkable, denser, etc. than just putting retail on the ground floor of every building. - You need to make it safe and easy to walk. Crosswalks need to be in convenient locations, marked, and have signals, for starters. Also, you need pleasant environments to walk in. This does not have to mean retail on the ground floor of every building. I would say that trees are a more important requisite. - Density is not a silver bullet to livability. Niche can correct me if I'm wrong, but Houston's densest residential neighborhood (in terms of population per square mile) is actually Gulfton. Some would argue that Gulfton is one of the -least- livable neighborhoods in Houston. - We need to accept that Houston is a suburban city, and we need to make our suburban neighborhoods more livable in their own right. Think about it. Are we going to bulldoze single-family neighborhoods to build midrises? Probably not. When people think 'livability' for Houston, the immediate assumption is usually that we need to copy what they've done in Seattle or Portland. Light rail going everywhere. Midrises with retail on the first floor. They're missing the point.
  8. I talked to a representative from the Bayou Greenway Initiative earlier this week, and they are very interested in adding hike and bike trails along utility rights of way. These trails would serve as north/south connections between existing east/west Bayou hike and bike trails. It sounds like the line running from Brays Bayou north through to Memorial Park would logically be at the top of their list. The Bills involved are HB3802 and SB1793 -- and it looks like both are faring well in the legislative process. From what I understand this initiative is being driven by Dallas / Forth Worth - where they don't have bayous and need to use utility easements for hike and bike trails. Oncor Energy, which maintains power transmission lines in DFW has been instrumental in it. Hopefully Centerpoint will follow suit.
  9. Ultimately, the choice to buy versus rent is a personal one - and personal preference is really all the reason you need. That said, each of the Altucher's points can (and should) be rebutted. A) Cash Gone - True you have to pay interest and other fees on a mortgage, and that cash is gone. But it's even worse for renting. Before I bought my home, I rented various apartments for 14 years. Over those 14 years, I paid a total of $100,000 in rent. If those had been mortgage payments, instead of rent checks, I might have build a few thousand dollars in equity. But they were rent checks, and all of that money's gone. Closing costs - This is the one area where the Altucher has a good point. Closing costs can be onerous - which is why many people advise that if you'll be in a house for less than 5 years, you should rent. (The closing costs are more than the equity you would build over 5 years.) C) Maintenance - OK, it sounds nice to live in an apartment or condo, where theoretically everything's taken care of. But you can't always trust a landlord to fix things right and in a timely fashion. The bathroom vent fan stops working - you call the office - they come by and remove the vent, leaving a gaping hole in your bathroom. Weeks, then months go by, and despite your phone calls, the hole is still there. This happened to me in one of the apartments I rented. It's the old mantra "if you want something done right, do it yourself." D) Taxes - You CAN, in fact, deduct mortgage interest from your federal income taxes. It's not a myth. I do it every year. Furthermore, landlords pay local property taxes, and they pass those taxes on to tenants as part of their rent. E) You're Trapped - You can't just up and decide to leave one day, because you have to sell the house. Renting isn't the panacea Altucher would have you believe - if you break your lease to leave early, it can be costly. But the real question is: is it really that bad to be locked into a house? If the neighborhood is stable and safe, and you have friends there, why are you so eager to leave? Do you really want to uproot your children and put them in a new school every few years? (And I wonder if Altucher actually studied history before he gave his rant about how big corporations fomented the "myth of homeownership" as a way to keep workers from moving. The 19th century industrial town was built around renting. Factory owners built houses, and rented those houses out to workers as a way to take back their wages.) F) Ugly - As in, ugly investment. Maybe houses are really ugly investments. But a house is much more than just an investment. It's a home. It is a reflection your personality and lifestyle choices. It's yours to personalize. Whether that means painting it your favorite color, or covering it in beer cans - you can't do that to a rental. As I said before, the decision to buy versus rent is a matter of personal choice. I think Altucher got caught up in the financial aspects of it (he is a financial expert after all) - but there's a lot more to the decision.
  10. I'm over in Larkwood; not far from Robindell. This area is a gold mine for Mods. And they're affordable here - which is a big plus.
  11. I think this is the best idea to come out of City Hall in a long time. Fill budget gaps by going after money that the City's already due. Genius. However, there is one serious concern. They want to convince people to pay by accelerating cutting off utilities (water). Fine and dandy for owner-occupied buildings. But what about multifamily tenants? This happened next door to my house a few months ago. Tenants who were current on their rent, had their water shut off because the owners of the complex failed to pay $40,000 in water bills. The City would be better to go to court in cases like this; instead of taking it out on the tenants. In general, as I said before, I love the idea of going after people who owe the City money. But it needs to be done carefully, intelligently, and fairly.
  12. Nothing's preventing hospitals from having flagship locations in the TMC, and satellite facilities all over Houston and its suburbs. Memorial Hermann already does; Methodist, too. and the Harris County Hospital District. I think from a hospital's standpoint, it's not an 'either or' question. The question I had for developers was, what do we expect from a base numbers standpoint? Will the TMC have more hospital development? Or will the suburbs? My money's still on the 'burbs. But I am a young architect; not a seasoned developer and real-estate guru.
  13. I'd be interested to hear what the developers would say about growth in medical space in the TMC, versus medical space out in the suburbs. At first blush, it would seem that there's more room for growth out in the 'burbs.
  14. Not normal. There's supposed to be 1-1/2" to 3" cover from the rebar to the edge of slab, typically. Structural engineers design the exact dimension and it's based on code and calculations. Concrete shouldn't wear-away from cars being driven on it after only one year. There was something else. Maybe it was just stray rebar that fell on the concrete when it was wet -- and so it really isn't anything but a tripping hazard. Maybe it's a seriously flawed slab. Either way, you were right to call attention to it. Next stop should be the building management and/or owner. If they don't respond, then go to the City.
  15. Again I'll ask what is a college education? I went to four years of undergrad. By most arguments, I have a college education. But what about the lady who did a 2 year associate's degree? Do we say she has a college education? How about the guy who did a four week certification course? Is he college educated? There's a tendency to oversimplify the argument "everyone needs to go to college," by assuming it means "everyone needs to get a four year college degree."
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