Like the brightest of stars, the 2010s have (thus far) been a very good decade for Houston. The parade of accolades have been rolling in… best city for this, number 1 at that. In the coming years however, the Space City may be brought back to earth.
Besides a fluctuating oil price market, there’s another important metric where Houston’s big advantages are fading fast: affordable housing. The days of the Bayou City being a place where you could ‘have it all’ on a modest income are just about gone. Paul Takahashi of the Houston Business Journal even goes so far to label our current market in an ‘affordable housing crisis’…
For much of the past half-decade, Houston has been in this envious position where employment and incomes have been growing while housing has remained “remarkably affordable.” However, that has changed amid the recent energy boom, according to Zillow economists.
Houston home prices have climbed to record highs as thousands of new residents moved to the Bayou City, fueling a hot housing market. In addition, growing construction, land and labor costs have forced homebuilders to build ever more expensive homes to hit their profit margins.
At the same time, rents also have risen to record levels amid Houston’s tight housing market. Houston’s median monthly rent grew 5.4 percent year over year to $1,522 in July 2015, according to the Houston Realtors Information Service Inc.
For many middle-class Houstonians the term crisis may seem a little harsh to describe the area’s housing woes. But one look at the struggles of low-income residents reveals a very tough road ahead. As rent and housing prices continue to ratchet upward, the Republican-dominated state legislature has done everything in its power to restrict a city or county’s ability to raise its minimum wage, even as they simultaneously sue Washington, preaching the “necessity of local control” from the Federal Government. The end result of this political wrangling? Real Houston families making far below the city’s Living Wage, getting priced out of their preferred neighborhood and worrying whether they’ll have any place to live tomorrow.
It’s time to shed some light on Houston’s affordable housing crisis. This issue may not garner much press in the current municipal elections, but affordable housing is likely to be a major challenge for the next Mayor and City Council of Houston. Let’s hope that all of the candidates will see this coming.