White Houston's Love Affair with the Suburbs Officially Over

Categories: Spaced City

riceloggo.jpg
Living in the city.
Rice's annual Kinder Houston-Area Survey is out, and as usual there's a wide range of stuff to ponder in it.

One thing we noticed: You can officially pronounce dead white Houston's love affair with the suburbs.

"In 1999, 52 percent of Anglos living in the city of Houston said they would someday like to move to suburbs, compared with 26 percent of those in the suburbs who were interested in moving to the city," the survey found. "This year, the figures are reversed: Just 28 percent of city residents said they want to live in the suburbs, but 33 percent of suburbanites are now interested in someday moving to the city."

Inside the Loop over Cinco Ranch? Heresy.

"The romance with the automobile, which has been the essence of Houston for most of its modern history, is clearly fading," Rice's Stephen Klineberg said. "The suburbs are more crowded, gas prices and traffic congestion are soaring, fewer households have children at home, and the lure of urban amenities, both in downtown Houston and in suburban 'town centers,' is generating a sea-change in area residents' living preferences."

But what about all those minorities white people have to live with in the city?

"Houston is now the most ethnically and culturally diverse metropolitan area in the nation," Klineberg said. "The surveys indicate a growing acceptance of this remarkable new reality. Moreover, the animosity toward undocumented immigrants seems to be fading, and the achievement of comprehensive immigration reform may be more politically feasible today than it has been in many years."

The Kinder survey usually produces a rosy spin on things, so it may be that Houston will not turn into an idyllic urban paradise anytime soon. But maybe there's hope.


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29 comments
Shaner07
Shaner07

Haven't been to the northside lately I see. It's all black.

Johnthec
Johnthec

A few years ago we did contemplate moving to Pearland but instead renovated a home in the Heights and we are determined to stay in the loop.  We have lived in Houston for 11 years and we have done extremely well with our real estate choices (Rice Military>Shady Acres>Heights).  We purchased a condo in 2001 for 108K and sold it in 2005 for 155K (full asking price).  We then bought a free standing home in Shady Acres for $250K in sold that in 2010 for 315K and with the equity we build up were able to afford more home than we hoped for in The Heights.  Contrast that to our friends in Pearland who lived in a nice subdivision from 2000-2009 and sold their home for the exact same price they paid for it.  Obviously this is a small sample but I don't see much appreciation in many suburbs.  I may be wrong but this is my perception.

Property Tax Lawyer
Property Tax Lawyer

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

Richard Doll
Richard Doll

I live in a downtown Houston highrise and love it. My two closest units/neighbors are black. I know this because I see them in the hallway and on the elevators. So what, they are very nice and for all I know they may prefer I was black. More likely they just don't care, like me. Race is not the issue, it's economics. Places where poorer people can afford to live have more crime, just a fact. If I was starving I would steal as a last resort to survive. Drug addicts do the same for the next fix. If there are drug addicts in my building, I'm fairly certain they don't have to steal to afford their drugs. At least not violently. They'll just embezzle from their work, or take the easy way out and become politicians.

Mike N.
Mike N.

I like living inside the loop, I paid less than $200k for my 2000sf townhome, and though definitely smaller than what I could get in the suburbs, the 10 minute commute more than makes up for it in time (which you will never get back) and gas.

Plus I find traffic to be much worse in the suburbs -- there is usually a much more limited number of routes to anywhere, especially to the freeway, so certain intersections end up being huge chokepoints (I-10 at Grand Parkway before the put the ramps in being a prime example). Here in town I find that there are usually numerous ways to get where I need to go (having a nav helps you take advantage of that for sure) so I can avoid the crowded roads and freeways.Being close to everything is just a bonus.

Iseehouston
Iseehouston

"But what about all those minorities white people have to live with in the city?" sense the racism in this? Or ignorance and political correctness are just non-existent here? I'm open to discussion, but please, no profane language.

Sarah Hubbell
Sarah Hubbell

One thing to take into account about whites increasing comfort with minorities? The suburbs are chock full of them now. Seriously, Cinco Ranch is becoming insanely ethnically diverse. My white son is the minority in his first grade class and I'm perfectly fine with that. I love Cinco, but I also love the city and if I didn't really need the first class public schools in Katy I would very likely be an inner looper. 

OldPete
OldPete

Atlantic Monthly had an article a while back about the exburbs becoming the new face of poverty and violence instead of the traditional urban ghetto. Interesting read.

Evan
Evan

Outside the loop? Nay! Thar be dragons...

roadgeek
roadgeek

Simple but unspoken:  whites are moving to stay ahead of the blacks.  As more and more blacks move to the 'burbs many whites are moving back inside the loop.  A reverse migration. 

Mstrdrgn
Mstrdrgn

While it would be nice to live in the city a short distance from work, there's just no way. I have a small (1200 sq. ft.) house on a decent piece of land. My taxes are almost 10% of what a similar house in Houston would cost (on a MUCH smaller lot), and there is no one to tell me what color my house can be or what I can plant in my yard. IF (really big if) I get to retire, my taxes won't choke me like what my dad who lives in southeast Houston has to deal with.

David Houston
David Houston

Let's look at the realities of this though.  The land on which a home stands on out in the suburbs is dirt cheap, not trying to offend anyone but it is, check your tax records.  Compare that to any lot downtown, and the comparison might shock you if you don't already know this.  The problems are exacerbated by builders (one or two a bit heavy handed) knocking on old ladies doors and offering them a pittance for their property, so that the builder can put a couple of 3 story town homes (worth over $1 million) on that property.  In the suburbs you can have a biggish house on a biggish lot for a fraction of what it will cost you to buy a home on a divided lot in say Montrose/Neartown area.  Anyone lucky enough to have such a lot in such an area, should never sell it!  There is however tax to be considered, the City of Houston have made some huge tax hikes in the last 3 years in some areas.  The more those town homes go up in your area, the higher your taxes soar.  Protest your taxes!  I personally believe that the powers that be are trying to clear the elderly and lower middle-class out of those areas to make way for bigger homes and bigger taxes.  Doesn't matter that some of those families have been there for 3 generations!

Corey
Corey

Reverse gentrification; where I grew up in Klein/Spring is now pretty abysmal and crime ridden. Those displaced have to move somewhere, and for a lot of folks the suburbs equal success..

TOLDYA
TOLDYA

With the lovely Greens rd and I45 area who could ask for more?

David Houston
David Houston

$200k for a 2000sf town-home?  There's a curious oddity.  At current prices you can't even build on your own lot, inside the loop, for that amount. Where is it? What age is this home? What value for home and land does it say on your taxes? More details needed... I'm calling shenanigans on this posting... ;)

David Houston
David Houston

Are Katy schools so great?  Many people choose to home-school their kids out there, that's a big thing to take on and there must be something in their reasons for preferring to do that.  The neighborhoods of the city have some very fine schools.

Shaner07
Shaner07

Not with section 8 going like it is.

Dino
Dino

 You're much more likely to have someone looking over your shoulder telling you what color you can paint your house and how high your grass is allowed to be in the suburbs than you are in the city.

GlenW
GlenW

I partly agree, but I don't believe there is any conspiracy to price older residents out of their homes by raising taxes.Furthermore, at least the way I understand it, property taxes are asessed on what you and your neighbors properties are worth, based on what the market value is. If you pay a lot of property taxes, then guess what, you live in a good neighborhood. If that is unacceptable then take your chances living elsewhere.Who buys a house based on how much property tax you might have to pay? We bought our place based on where we wanted to live and the quality of life we wanted. For us that meant conveince and walkability, not to mention resale value.

Wyatt
Wyatt

 That's not in the Beltway, let alone the Loop. So what does that have to do with moving into the city?

Mike N.
Mike N.

It would not apparently meet with your lofty standards, but I bought mine in 2003. Built by that local bastion of suburban homebuilding, Perry Homes, no less. HCAD says my house is $200k right now, $85k land and $115k improvements.

Even today it's not that hard to find a decent townhouse inside the loop in the 2000sf range in the low 200's. The other units that have changed hands here recently all went for around $220k. Not in the ghetto either, just not in the Heights or Rice Military, for sure.

Plus, there are tons of those metal sided Urban Lofts all around town that sold for around $200 back then and their prices are about the same right now, and they are all 1900-2000sf.

Shaner07
Shaner07

It's only sarcasm when white politically correct liberals say it.

David Houston
David Houston

"If that is unacceptable then take your chances living elsewhere" - Aren't you just agreeing with me in what I said about people being forced to move?  The high taxes are pricing people out of their homes!  I speak from experience of having an elderly mother-in-law who's taxes have gone through the roof in just 3 years.  What her house is 'valued' at by the City and what it could actually be sold for (in this economy) are two completely different figures.  The figure is inflated (by the city) by about $100,000, and it will keep rising as more of these town-houses appear in the neighborhood.  This seems to be a common situation many are now in.  I'll stand by my statement and go further and state that I believe the city are gouging people who can least afford it.  The joke of it is, taxes go to pay for High Schools and similar, and areas like Montrose/Neartown are predominantly people who either don't have families or are elderly, but still have to pay for the burden.  It's gouging! You asked "Who buys a house based on how much property tax you might have to pay". My reply anyone with any sense, who is wondering if they can afford to live in such a place. I take offense at the elitist attitudes of some who arrived in the last 5 years in such areas, and formed HOA's in a place that never had one. Oddly enough they sound a lot like you. But you think an old lady who has lived there since 1946 should move? Right... The bottom line message seems to be if you can't afford the changes that have been forced on you then should move. Meanwhile builders buy the land for a song from old ladies, and make a killing on every house sold, and the 'city' rub their hands it together in anticipation of raking in even more taxes...

TOLDYA
TOLDYA

Semantics  one block north of the beltway jeez

Mike N.
Mike N.

I live in a townhouse, not a condo, and I only share one wall. To me, townhouse = fee simple ownership down to the dirt under you, condo = fee simple ownership only inside your four walls.

If you want a charming and elegant single family home with a yard inside the Loop, yeah, you're going to pay, but for me the tradeoff versus what I could get in the burbs is definitely worth it. I find living in the burbs completely unappealing, block after block of identical houses, nothing nearby except strip malls, and lots of driving to go anywhere interesting. Plus if you want charming and elegant in the burbs you're looking at gated communities anyways.

My cost of living here is generally the same or lower. Taxes, HOA fees, and water are around $5000 a year, and other utilities are the same as in the burbs. I definitely spend a lot less on gas and mileage/depreciation on the car. It's especially pleasant when you consider my commute downtown is only 10 minutes and I only have to gas up once every two weeks or so. When the weather is nice I can even bike to work, get a 1hr roundtrip workout a day in the bargain, and kill two birds with one stone.

Perry Homes is one of the larger local builders, he is of the Swift Boat fame and a big political donor. In my experience Perry Homes are pretty solid notwithstanding the disagreeable politics. My family lived in a Perry house when we moved to Texas, and we know lots of people who have or are presently living in a Perry house. I watched my house being built, and in the almost 9 years of ownership it's been pretty solid (knock wood). The only thing we have had to replace is the AC compressor two years ago.

I live in the Med Center area, and there are always people moving in and out of the area, so none of the townhouses around here stay on the market very long. It's also been my observation that home prices have been more stable inside the loop compared to outside the loop.

David Houston
David Houston

Is it a Condo by any chance?  I don't know much about Perry Homes or where they are building, but at current prices you likely could not even build a free standing home (not a condo) in the inner loop for $200,000, as I said already.  That same amount could have bought you a considerable home on a considerable sized lot out in the burbs. 'Town-home' is such an indefinite and much abused term, which is seemingly open to interpretation when Realtors and Builders describe what they have on their books.

I've seen some charming 'older' homes in the inner loop go (falling prey to a combination of the greedy builders, and the City's high taxation, would be a better description) for as little as $250,000+ but the owners must be mad to accept that price, real value of the 'undivided' lot could be approaching double that.  Builders tear them down immediately and put two town-homes up in their place, going rate is $450K+ on such new homes built on half a lot. 

Urban lofts are another kettle of fish completely.  If people want to live in something that looks from the outside a jail or at best a factory, and give up on greenery and privacy, and live close to a highway, then that's fine with me. I figure that Urban Lofts are often built on unattractive land in a bad location, which is no good for any other form of housing.

BTW, I suspect you are discussing condo's here, built on a divided lot. Sure you can get a condo somewhere for about that.

I just tell it like it is, and go on what I know about the actual state of Houston's Market in the current economy. If your land is only being taxed at $85k, then it sounds as though you got a good deal, but I'd be asking why it is so cheaply valued since you might want to sell it again later.

It is the taxes that are crippling people and driving up the values of their homes, doesn't matter about the state of the home itself! The home itself could be a step away from a pull-down, but that doesn't stop it from being taxed as though it was a 3-story town-home. As the neighborhoods approach the Downtown area they go through the roof. I personally find it too elitist and wonder if the tax hikes are aimed at driving out people who have been there forever.

Ultimately it's goodbye to the charm and elegance of Houston's leafy neighborhoods and hello to the Concrete Jungle and gated condo's.

Odd fact to close on, but of the people I know who have bought those new town-homes within the last ten years, they invariable have experienced considerable and costly structural problems. This raises serious questions about overall building quality, and some builders. If I seem critical of some builders and their products, it's likely because I'm from a family of builders.

Craigley
Craigley

I paid $128K for the exact same town-home in 1999.

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