Housing report finds Harris County was becoming increasingly unaffordable ahead of pandemic

Multifamily construction
Multifamily construction represented half of all residential building in 2018, according to the Kinder Institute's analysis, and most of that went toward the high end of the market. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

Multifamily construction represented half of all residential building in 2018, according to the Kinder Institute's analysis, and most of that went toward the high end of the market. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)

Even before the pandemic was a factor, finding an affordable place to live was becoming increasingly difficult in Harris County, with prices outpacing incomes and more people at risk of being overly burdened by housing costs, according to data compiled by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research.

“The sense is, with COVID-19 ... affordability is only going to get worse,” said Kyle Shelton, one of the authors of the institute’s first comprehensive look at housing in Harris County, which was released June 23.

Inspired in part by Harvard University’s State of the Nation’s Housing annual report, the Kinder Institute hopes to offer this annual snapshot as a local benchmark for informing future housing decisions as well as policy decisions, though the institute did not advocate for any approaches in its first year, Shelton said.

“We’ve done a great job at describing the problems ... but more and more we want to think about, what are the solutions?” said Mary Cunningham, vice president for Metropolitan Housing and Community Policies at the Urban Institute. She was one of three panelists invited to weigh in on the report June 23.

Using aggregated data from the American Community Survey as well as the Houston Association of Realtors, the Kinder report noted the increasing trend toward renting overall as home ownership pulled further out of economic reach, with 57% of Houstonians and 45% of Harris County residents renting as of 2018.

A household earning the median income in 2018 could afford a home priced at around $186,000, but the median market price was $220,000 that year.

“The affordability gap is even worse for renters, making it nearly impossible for the average renter to purchase a home without significant subsidy,” the report notes.

Renters are also increasingly unable to build the savings needed to work toward a home purchase, with 47% paying over 30% of their income on rent and 25% paying more than 50%, according to the report. Homeowners do not see the same challenges, the report found.

“Renters are stretched and can’t keep up, and so you can see a cycle where they are stuck where they are,” Shelton said.

This is particularly troubling, he said, with home ownership declining among Black households and income tied up in higher-rent properties.

“Housing dollars are dollars spent you can’t spend on something else. ... They aren’t paying for education or health care, and they aren’t building generational wealth,” Shelton said.

The report also noted a mismatch between supply- and income-based demand, with more multifamily units being built to serve the higher end of the market, for example.

“The next step I would really think about is setting some targets, ... really thinking about production targets by income-band,” Cunningham said. “Supporting affordable housing in your neighborhood is a great place to start.”

Advocates also called for longer-term strategies rather than responding to natural and economic disasters as they come.

“We keep working on a knee-jerk reaction,” said Allison Hay, executive director of Houston Habitat for Humanity. “We don’t have a plan that goes far enough along to help families for generations and help Houston grow as a city.”

Access the State of Housing report below.
By Matt Dulin
Matt joined Community Impact Newspaper in January 2018 and is the City Editor for Houston's Inner Loop editions.


The Allen Houston
The Allen high-rise project marks construction milestones

The four-level, 62,000-square-foot pavilion is scheduled be ready for tenant move-in by the first quarter of 2021, while the high-rise is expected in 2023.

Houston City Council passed a tax rate Oct. 21 of $0.56184 per $100 valuation for fiscal year 2020-21, a 1.07% reduction from the previous year’s tax rate of $0.56792 per $100 valuation. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Houston approves lower tax rate for fiscal year 2020-21 amid calls for further reductions

The rate may still result in an increase for some taxpayers with the average homestead property value rising about 4%.

Target has built out its new store at 2075 Westheimer Road, Houston. (Matt Dulin/Community Impact Newspaper)
Target to open fourth Inner Loop location and more Houston-area business, community news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.

Baylor College of Medicine is seeking volunteers for a COVID-19 study looking to determine the prevalence of the viral disease in the Houston area. (Courtesy Baylor College of Medicine)
Baylor College of Medicine recruiting participants for COVID-19 prevalence study

The study will collect samples from 70,000 individuals nationwide.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston region in 2017. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Houston hydrologist explains climate change’s role in intensified flooding, importance of planning for future storms

“We’re looking at more intense and more frequent storms, and so, as a region, we’re going to need to think about that when we’re planning. We need to plan for that worst-case climate change [scenario].”

Some Harris County residents could be eligible for free workforce training. (Courtesy Lone Star College System)
Harris County partners with Lone Star College to offer free workforce training this fall

Furloughed, unemployed and underemployed Harris County residents could be eligible for one of 17 training programs.

Compass Houston
Compass opens permanent Houston office, announces plans for Heights, Woodlands, Memorial

The relative newcomer to the Houston market is currently ranked No. 1 for active listing dollar volume.

The Sporting Club Houston
The Sporting Club brings the outdoors in with retractable roof on Washington Avenue

The lounge and restaurant features a 2,400-square-foot retractable roof.

Lanier Middle School
Houston ISD: 17 campuses close with confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19

The district's is reporting 90 total cases, including 10 cases among students, as of Oct. 20.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Greater Houston region faces glut of industrial, commercial space and multifamily housing

While the Greater Houston area has seen a glut of office space for the last six years, Patrick Jankowski said the industrial buildup has happened more in the past year and a half.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project proposes rerouting I-45 through the East End and Fifth Ward and expanding it through the Northside. (Nathan Colbert/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston-Galveston Area Council seeking feedback on I-45 project plans

Regional leaders are accepting feedback on which projects to fund alongside the I-45 overhaul.

Houston police
Houston will spend $4.1 million from CARES Act to rein in rising crime rate

Violent crime is up 11% in the city of Houston and there are six hot spots throughout the city that are seeing the most violent crime numbers.