Choosing where to live based on the schools

Two recent articles discuss housing choices based on schools.

Christine Drennon, Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Trinity University, notes:

School districts once were formed in response to where people live; now people live in response to where school districts are located.

“The roots of economic segregation”, Christine Drennon, San Antonio Express-News, August 13, 2012. She notes that San Antonio topped a list of cities with the most residential segregation by income. See “The Rise of Residential Segregation by Income”, Richard Fry & Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center on Social and Demographic Trends, August 1, 2012.

The city used to be covered by a patchwork of small, rural districts (such as Alamo Heights ISD); the districts on the wealthier north side have consolidated (Northside ISD and Northeast ISD), but the inner city districts (Edgewood ISD, Harlandale ISD, etc.), serving the neighborhoods that were built for non-whites are still fragmented.

Drennon’s call to action:

Decades of restrictions, regulations and policy created our economically segregated landscape; restrictions, regulations and policy must now desegregate it.

Meanwhile, blogger Michael Girdley observes:

As a group, we all want a vibrant downtown full of residents, arts, nightlife, businesses, and kids. However, our population — especially parents — seem to keep buying in the near and far suburbs.

“Q: What’s really stopping more families moving into inner city San Antonio?”, Michael Girdley, August 2, 2012 (also appearing in the Rivard Report on August 13 as “Cost of Living: Stone Oak vs. Downtown”).

Girdley crunches the numbers (cost per square foot, property taxes, maintenance, etc.) and finds that it’s just a lot more economical to live in Stone Oak or even Alamo Heights than in an inner city neighborhood like Lavaca.

What accounts for the high cost-per-square-foot figure for Lavaca?

Yes, you can buy a cheaper home in or near downtown than in the Bonham school area. However, for a family comparing downtown to Stone Oak, the deep west side or Alamo Heights, an apples-to-apples comparison requires limiting downtown to areas with equivalent school quality to those in AHISD or NISD. Bonham Academy is one of those. Unfortunately, the word has gotten out about Bonham and this year the lottery to get in was oversubscribed. So, going to Bonham Academy if you live outside its draw isn’t automatic.

Girdley promises that in a future post he will write about solutions for getting San Antonio residents to move back to the inner city. Sounds interesting.

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