Houston More Expensive Than New York? Not So Fast

A recent study claiming that transportation costs in Houston, among other expenses, raise the cost of living almost to the same level as living in New York City. Some took exception to the study's methodology.

January 29, 2020, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


I-45 and I-69

Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

A recently published report by the Citizens Budget Commission made news in urbanism circles for daring to publish the claim that living in Houston is almost expensive as living in New York City, due to the former's sprawling layout.

The study invoked vitriol among some online commentators (many tending toward the "market urbanism" spectrum of the urbanism debate) about the assumptions embedded in the study's methodology.

Connor Harris, writing for the Manhattan Institute, fleshes out those objections in a full-fledged attack on the Citizen Budget Commission's report. Harris argues that the study made several crucial mistakes, with more detail listed in the article for each: 1) Using metropolitan-area averages, 2) Counting taxes selectively, 3) Overlooking differences in quality, and 4) Making misleading income adjustments.

"Texas Monthly [which broadcast the study's findings] told a story that a lot of people wanted to hear: loosely regulated housing markets like Houston have long embarrassed ideological opponents of free markets who insist that only rent controls and massive public subsidies can provide affordable housing," writes Harris. "There is a ready audience for the argument that Houston’s affordability is a mirage. If you ever find an argument like this tempting, though, ask yourself: is it more likely that you’re mistaken, or that the millions of Americans voting with their feet are?"

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