I am stunned by the amount of ignorance being circulating on Facebook and in neighborhood meetings about apartments. Am I "pro-apartments?" Not necessarily. Am I "anti-apartments?" Not necessarily. I like to think I'm capable of studying each application and deciding what's best. Judging from the rhetoric around Rowlett, it seems to have been decided that you must be blindly and rigidly one or the other. There seems to be no room for intellect. There seems to be no room for anyone to study each apartment situation and make a judgement independent of the ones who try to think for us.
I have attended many apartment presentations over my too many years as a real estate development lender. They were all a little "testy," some more than others. In every presentation, the "anti" forces set out the same exact arguments, every time. They would be: 1) Apartments cause real estate values to fall, 2) Apartments increase crime, 3) Apartments cause neighborhoods to become unkempt, and 4) Apartments cause traffic problems. In upscale locations, like Rowlett, all comments above are overwhelmingly untrue, except possibly the traffic issue. City Councils should address any traffic issues.
In upscale communities, like Rowlett, apartments can be positives, rather than a detriment. I know a couple of apartment projects in Miami and Chicago that no one in this town can probably afford to live in. Even if you won the lottery and moved in, you would be looked upon as "trash." Can you imagine that!!?? Such disgust coming from an apartment dweller, no less!! Actually, that condition is not as far away as you may think. If you have been reading Steve Brown, real estate writer for the Dallas Morning News, you would know that many contemporary apartment dwellers are in very high income brackets, indeed, and often make more money than the people in houses around them. That is the group that the new apartments on Scenic Drive and downtown are being built to serve. At rents starting at $1,300/ month, raising to $2,400/ month, maybe our protestors are jealous. Those rents are probably higher than their house payments. Is that true of all? Of course not, but one should never portray ALL apartment dwellers as something unsavory. Some call that slander. I'd like to think that Rowlett has better people than that.
The current opinions about apartments seen to take on the character that ALL apartments are bad. Furthermore, they say Rowlett has too many apartments. Actually, both of those comments are wrong. For example, the Villages downtown and the apartments on Scenic can not fill the needs of many senior citizens and many new families and workforce families. The rents are too high for most and outright prohibitive for others. For example, what about a senior citizen that can still take care of themselves inside their home, but can not take care of the typical maintenance of owning a home? Their house is a burden, but, if they sell it, where do they go whereby they can live on Social Security income? They can't go to our apartments designed for senior living because the rabble rowsers have decreed that there would be no more development of ALL future apartments. What about young and work force families making $80-$90,000 a year. They can't qualify for a loan for an average house in Rowlett. There is no house inventory and no low cost houses are being built. Where do they go? The Bastille Stormers have shut down ALL apartment development. They have to live somewhere else. Rowlett can't provide for them. The naysayers and NIMBY's have won. Rowlett can't take care of it's own people.
Let's go to the other end of the scale. Bayside is part of Rowlett, right? It's in the city limits and a part of the "math" of Rowlett. I have heard it said that 5,000 apartment units are proposed for Rowlett. I have also heard it said that 1,800 of those units are in Bayside. Folks, I know a little bit about the proposed costs of living in Bayside. Do you think for a moment that Bayside's marketing efforts are limited to Rowlett? The Bayside marketing efforts will be no more designed for the renters in Rowlett than a man in the moon. If you believe that it is, you are the most incompetent real estate analyst I have ever met, and I have met some really dumb ones. Bayside's marketing area runs from about Brownsville to near the Canadian border. So, I guess our naysayers and NIMBY's are shutting down Bayside. Shoot, we didn't need that high class of citizen, anyway. Heck, we drive pick up trucks.
So, if you take Bayside's apartments out of the mix, there remains 3200 apartment units being considered. That is about half the percentage of apartments as the national average of for contemporary towns in major American cities (see previous posts and data). Rowlett is not even close to being overbuilt with apartments.
So, what do I think? I think we need to leave Bayside alone and let the marketplace seek its own level. That market is so far removed from the general Rowlett marketplace that it should have it's own rules. I think that the "market rate apartments" should be slowed down a little until we see how fast they rent up. The absorption rate will tell us how strong that market remains. As far as apartments for seniors and workforce families, we need many. How many do we need? I don't know, but at this time we can make an educated guess. We have 60,000 people. It is reasonable to estimate about 20% of the population is over 55 years of age. That produces 12,000 seniors. How many need help. Still don't know, but lets use 20% again. That's 2400 seniors in need. What about workforce families? How many families making $80-$90,000 per year live here or work here and want to live here? 1,000? 2,000? 3,000? It is clear to me that we need 2,000 to 3,000 senior and workforce apartments. If you add the 3100 units of built or proposed "marketrate" apartments and add them to the needed senior and workforce apartments, about 5,000 to 6,000 units are needed in Rowlett. That is exactly the percentage of the national average.
So, let's look at the naysayers and Bastille Stormers. I have heard many times that some have moved to Rowlett for the small town feel and atmosphere. Know what? I did too. It was great. Still is. However, when I moved here 42 years ago, I wasn't so dumb that I thought that great big city to the west wouldn't eventually grow out to me and influence my way of life. It has grown out to me and I still like it here. Everyone who bought a house in Rowlett had the duty and responsibility to exercise due diligence. It was their duty to study the facts effecting their proposed purchase and make a decision. One glaring fact was that Dallas, whose downtown was 22 miles to the west, just might have an effect on your housing future. Other factors were where the vacant and underdeveloped land was located. Duh.
Are you being penalized for living so close to Dallas? Well, it depends on how you look at it, but if you paid $200,000 for your house five years ago, its probably worth about $300,000 now. I doubt that's happened in Wills Point, which more nearly represents the desired rural living lifestyle. It's just a bummer that you would have to drive so far to work.
So, what did you get when you bought your house in Rowlett? I don't know what you got, but I got a deed that said I owned all the land within the deed lines of my lot. It didn't say anything about any rights I had on anybody else's land. It didn't say I had jurisdiction over other people's property rights. But........this is America. If you can tell enough maybe not quite true stories, and are good at misrepresenting the truth, there is a chance you can gain control over other people's property rights via loud noises at city hall. Majority rules, right? I guess I don't have a problem with that, provided everyone protesting is capable of tying their own shoes and has an IQ of at least 80. Oops. This is America. No one has to do or have either. If you make enough noise, it becomes the duty of the City Council to address your complaint. Well, City Council has to be held to a higher standard than the regular run of the mill rabble rowser. I can only hope they understand all the above. Their duty is to Rowlett as a whole, not to an individual. If they satisfy 60-100 very loud residents at the rear of City Council chambers, what do they tell the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of citizens that were just denied their needs and wishes.
When it come to controlling city growth, a town in south Texas is worthy of mentioning. This town thought that the marketplace could handle growth issues better than government. They never had zoning. Yep, it's Houston. I haven't been there in a couple of years, but they seem to be doing alright.
So, here we are. The barbarians are at the gate. The shouts are clear. "Ban all apartments, regardless of need." The seniors, workforce families, and upscale renters in Bayside must go somewhere else to live. They can't live in Rowlett. They're bad for the neighborhoods.