METRO and the Houston Chronicle try yet again to peddle light rail as a catalyst for development

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In Sunday’s print and subscriber edition of the Houston Chronicle, longtime Chronicle business writer L.M. Sixel posted a justifiably optimistic story about the Houston-area real-estate market. The resurgence of the oil and gas industry, thanks to revolutions in hydraulic fracturing, has made its effect felt all across Texas, with the state unemployment rate (according to a Wikipedia page) at 6.4 percent. Vehicles with license plates from outside Texas are not uncommon sights, and real-estate developers are putting up new structures all over the Houston area.

Amongst the optimism, however, Ms. Sixel for some reason decided to push the tired old story that light rail drives real-estate development, despite the evidence to the contrary. Indeed the Chronicle itself posted the most recent failed real-estate story concerning light rail just two weeks ago, reporting that a developer terminated a 316-unit apartment-complex deal that was to be located near a light-rail station on Harrisburg. Any real-estate development that does occur near these light rail lines might well be incidental. These developments might have been built regardless of whether METRO had built rail lines or not.

Who is Matthew Deal? What the Chronicle omitted

But the real story in Ms. Sixel’s post is not necessarily arguing over whether light rail promotes development. The real story is whom she sought out for this opinion — a fellow named Matthew Deal, identified as “a partner with Deal Sikes & Associates in Houston, commercial real estate appraisers and consultants.” What Ms. Sixel does not post in her story is that Mr. Deal has been employed by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) as their director of property condemnation and real-estate appraisals of properties along these light-rail lines. The Business Wire story goes on to note that METRO has condemned some 400 properties along these rail lines, which no doubt has provided Mr. Deal with a very handsome income. It also seems Mr. Deal has been in the government-property-condemnation business for quite a while.

If METRO, the Houston Chronicle, and the politically powerful light-rail constituency want to continue to peddle the tired, questionable mantra that light rail promotes real-estate development, it would really help their case if they were to use someone who is not feeding at the transit-agency trough!