Home and apartment rents throughout the U.S. have soared since the Great Recession, but the cost of rent in Missouri City has far outpaced increases seen nationally and in other suburbs in the Greater Houston area.
A Community Impact Newspaper analysis of seven Houston suburbs found average rents increased between 30.4 percent to 67.7 percent from 2005 to 2015, according to CoStar Group, a real estate research firm. However, average rents increased in Missouri City by more than 100 percent during the same time period. Representatives of local charities said many residents are finding themselves in need of housing assistance.
“There are not a lot of apartments in Missouri City,” Realtor Shane Bogany said. “It’s mostly single-family homes, and that’s why you see rents going up. Places that used to rent for $600 or $700 now go for $1,200 or $1,300.”
The average monthly rent in Missouri City in 2005 was $637, according to CoStar Group. But by 2015, the average rent had more than doubled to an average of $1,278.75. Bogany has been a Missouri City resident and Realtor for 33 years, and he is the vice chairman of the Fort Bend County Housing Finance Corporation. Bogany said when people come to him looking to rent a home or apartment that is not high-end and newly built, he directs them to Stafford, Fresno and parts of Houston.
“But rents have gone through the roofs in those places, too,” Bogany said. “There are some older townhomes in Quail Valley or Meadowcreek, but because of the lack of supply, those are rented before they even come on the market.”
Bogany said he believes part of the reason for rents increasing so much in Missouri City is because home sales prices have also increased since the Great Recession, and that has enticed many mom and pop landlords, who usually deal with single-family homes, to cash out.
“[Individual landlords] are often older, they’re looking to retire, and they figure they can get their money and get out,” he said.
Local charities and nonprofits focused on helping people faced with unaffordable housing say they have seen an increase in the need for their services.
Houston-based nonprofit Coalition for the Homeless has seen requests for housing assistance from renters in the Missouri City area steadily increasing, Director of Programs Eva Thibaudeau said.
“Homelessness prevention assistance requests have definitely gone up in that area,” she said.
The National Low Income Housing Coalition issued a report last year stating the country’s housing supply needs about 7.2 million affordable rental units for extremely low-income households, or households with an income of 30 percent or less of the area’s median income.
In its state-by-state comparison of rental units both affordable and available per 100 extremely low-income renter households, the NLIHC found Texas to have some of the lowest availability of such housing stock, with only 24 rentals available per 100 renting households. Only six states had a lower number, according to the study. Only 10 states had more than 40 such rental units, according to the 2016 study.
“If you’re developing to make money, then you are developing to optimize rental dollars,” Thibaudeau said.
Andrew Ardoin, president and member of the St. Vincent de Paul chapter based at St. Angela Merici Catholic Chruch in Missouri City, said since the chapter formed in 2016, it has also been fielding requests for help with rent and utilities. The organization seeks to help people with basic needs they may be lacking.
“I’ve noticed there is no affordable housing in the area,” Ardoin said. “It’s a problem for people who don’t make much money. Some of the people we help will tell us, ‘I’ve looked around, and I can’t find anything affordable.’”
Population, affluence grows
The population of Fort Bend County has surged in the past decades, and the area continues to grow in affluence. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in Missouri City increased 46.4 percent, from $63,330 in 2005 to $92,696 in 2015. That is a faster pace than median household incomes rose in Sugar Land, the state and the U.S. between 2005 and 2015.
“The area is growing so quickly, and developers are targeting the high-end market. At the same time, there has not been an equal focus on building rental units that are affordable to low-income or even working-class households,” Thibaudeau said.
Bruce McClenny, president of Apartment Data Services, said, generally, newly built housing will cost more, and so it will raise the average housing cost in an area.
“New properties with all the bells and whistles—with all the amenities—coming into an area will command about 20 percent higher rents than the rest of the area,” McClenny said. “That’s a generalization of what new construction can do.”
Meanwhile, Missouri City and other suburbs in Fort Bend County have seen their population numbers swell. In 2000, the city’s population was 53,501. It increased 31.8 percent to 70,538 in 2015, according to census data.
“Everybody is focused on the southwest Houston area,” said Andy Teas, vice president of public affairs for the Houston Apartment Association. “There is a tremendous amount of growth, and that’s going to require housing.”
Demand for rental housing in Missouri City appears to have grown as well, as the homeownership rate in the city has dropped significantly since 2000, while the number of renters has doubled. In 2000, the percentage of housing units in Missouri City occupied by owners was 90.8 percent. By 2015, that figure had dropped to 83 percent, according to census data.
Missouri City officials declined to comment for this story.
Ardoin said while many people who request help from St. Vincent de Paul are dealing with catastrophic, short-term issue like a job loss, the chapter also hears from people who struggle continually simply because they do not make much money.
“People say they looked everywhere around here [for housing] and can’t find anything,” he said.