Local demand grows for luxury apartments

Developers are stepping up to fill a growing demand for multifamily housing as the Cy-Fair area continues to see population and job growth.



Vacancy rates for apartments in the Cy-Fair area are around 3.6 percent, according to Reis Reports, which produces monthly reports on real estate for 23 different submarkets in the Greater Houston area. The report also found that, because of high demand, average rents for apartments in Cy-Fair have risen to $920 per month, higher than 16 of Houston's 23 submarkets.



John Kirk, executive vice president for developer Embrey Partners, said the undeniable demand was what inspired Embrey to start work on Highpoint—a four-story, 336-unit luxury complex at Hwy. 249 and Cypresswood Drive. The complex is expected to open in late spring.



"The limited amount of new multifamily projects in this immediate submarket coupled with Houston's burgeoning job growth presents a great opportunity for this development," he said.



In 2013, several apartment complexes opened in the Cy-Fair area—including the 318-unit Watermark at Barker Cypress. Several others opened earlier this year, while construction is underway on more complexes that are expected to open through next year.



Even with new developments, apartment growth is barely keeping up with job growth, said Andy Teas, vice president of public affairs for the Houston Apartment Association. Vacancy rates for multifamily units in the Cy-Fair area are expected to rise slightly, but they are projected to remain low at 5 percent by the end of 2014.



"We've added a tremendous number of jobs in Houston, and even as many apartment communities are going up, it's not enough to keep up with the demand," Teas said. "There's a tremendous amount of construction."



Luxury developments



Several attempts to bring low income housing to the Copperfield area in the past few years were opposed by residents who were concerned about the developments' effect on property values, traffic and crime, causing the developers to eventually withdraw their proposals. However, developers with recent multifamily projects have emphasized the objective to create luxury apartments that are urbanized but also high-class.



"We call it urbanizing the suburbs," Kirk said about Highpoint. "Our intention is to create a product that is attractive and hip, similar to what you have in an urban atmosphere."



Remington at Fairfield, a 294-unit apartment complex by Allen Harrison Development, is built to appeal to professionals moving to the area because of the Grand Parkway. Allen Harrison developers expect the growth to continue until Cy-Fair eventually becomes an alternative to Katy's Energy Corridor, where 25 percent of Fairfield residents commute.



Chaille Ralph, chairwoman of Houston Area Realtors, said concerns about multifamily projects related to crime and property values are often unfounded, especially when it comes to luxury developments. The biggest negative is traffic, she said.



"You have a larger density of people living there," Ralph said. "It brings more people to the grocery stores, it brings more people to the restaurants, so it also has a positive impact on the local economy."



Lifestyle choice



The increase in demand for apartments can be tied to an overall change in lifestyle among people moving to the area, Teas said. Apartments offer greater convenience to buyers who are not interested in the commitment and responsibilities that come along with home ownership, he said.



"Rather than tying yourself to a 30-year mortgage, you can change jobs, careers and cities with the economy," Teas said. "People these days don't seem to be as interested in spending their weekend doing yard work and home repairs. With an apartment, you have a professional maintenance and landscaping staff that handles those things."



The Retreat at Vintage Park—which celebrated the opening of 323 luxury apartments in October—also seeks to appeal to a different class of apartment seeker, community manager Delaney Taylor said.



"You have people coming to this area for employment, who have money to spend, but maybe don't need as much space or don't want to commit to a house," she said. "A lot of the time, you've got the same demographics you would have in a home you buy. When jobs start showing up, these sorts of developments won't be far behind."

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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