A recent write-up from the Texas Tribune highlights an interesting phenomenon taking root in many major downtown Texas cities: that is, a “glut of empty office space.” As the article explains further:
The Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas have office vacancy rates that range from 21% to 25%, vacancies that could complicate the post-pandemic recoveries of downtown areas, which depend on office workers to support restaurants and retail businesses.”
Per the article, these vacancies may stem from the rise of remote and hybrid work models. These models, which provide “employees with greater flexibility and the option to work from home or anywhere they can be productive,” came to prominence in the post-pandemic world. Another factor suggested is a phenomenon known as ‘flight to quality’ wherein employers attempt to: “lure their workforce back to the office by leaving their old spaces to set up shop in sleeker, more modern digs.”
Now, to some extent, both of these factors may indeed be contributing to the trouble in Texas’ urban core. However, there are arguably larger factors at play (none of which were even hinted at in the aforementioned article). Chief among them, the ill-effects of progressivism.
For years, urban Texas has been a hotbed of progressive activism which, as a result, has invited high crime, high taxes, poor schooling, and homelessness. Further, this sort of activism introduced tremendous uncertainty into the business environment. Until recently, urban city councils had developed a bad habit of adopting California-style rules and regulations on a whim (see mandatory paid sick leave ordinances, for example). This proclivity not only increased costs unexpectedly but also fostered a sense of insecurity as employers never knew what a woke city council would do next.
And let’s not forget about the traffic nightmare created by city planners, most of whom seem more interested in getting people out of their cars than actually alleviating congestion.
Given the affordability, livability, and mobility crises plaguing progressive cities today, it’s no wonder that employers are leaving city centers for cheaper, safer, and more accessible locations to set up shop. So rather than blame work models, it’s more accurate to lay it at the feet of wokeness.