Housing increasingly unaffordable in Houston, researchers say

The average single-family home price in the Houston area has gone up 32.5% and rental homes have gone up 23.8% in 23 months.
HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the last 23 months, the average single-family home price in the Houston area has gone up from $309,975 to $410,923. That is a 32.5%increase. In that same period, the average cost of a rental home has increased from $1675 to $2075, a 23.8% jump.

For some, that means the cost of buying a home or renting an apartment is becoming less affordable. For others, it means the threat of eviction. On either end of the spectrum, it signals that affordable housing is not so affordable anymore.

Tim Surratt is a realtor with 30 years of experience. His buyers can afford to purchase homes, but they are either spending more money or buying fewer houses in the market with huge demand and little inventory.

"(It's happening in) every single price point," Surrat said. "Affordability is getting tougher and tougher to find something under $300,000. You'll have to go further and further out. There is still affordable housing. You might have to go a little farther out or have a smaller house than you thought you might have."

That is part of what researchers at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University found. They have published no fewer than three studies on affordable housing in the last year. Surrat sees Houston's housing as a tale of two cities.

"Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable for lots of people," said Bill Fulton, Urban Research director. "There are people who want to buy and people who are just scraping by who need to rent."

Fulton said the COVID-19 pandemic certainly exacerbated the issue, but affordable housing was already a problem before.

"So much rental housing was knocked out during Harvey that there was a lot more competition, and people started paying more than they could afford for rental housing," Fulton said.

That is Joetta Stevenson's experience. She lives in Fifth Ward and is part of a group of Houston residents who call their coalition Fair Housing and Neighborhood Rights.

"If you were already in trouble during Harvey, you got hit again and again, and you never got relief from the original hit," said Stevenson.

Ruth Randle is also a member of the FHRN. She lives on $800 a month. Randle is 68 years old and got an extra job to pay her bills and still barely gets by.

"I get another job, and I still have to pay taxes on the little money (I made)," Randle said. "I owe the government out of the money (I made)."

It is a losing proposition for so many, and that's if they can find housing. The Houston Housing Authority has various waiting lists from 8,000 to 20,000 people, all looking for help finding and keeping affordable housing. David Northern is the CEO.

"The stress is amazing," Northern told ABC13. "Coming out of the pandemic, a lot of families are under income, and the rents are rising. Totally. Right now, there are not a lot of landlords willing to rent to people of affordable housing in that situation. We continually work at it. We have to work with our local elected officials. You have to make sure communities understand that people need affordable housing."

Julia Orduna is with Texas Housers, a non-profit advocacy focusing on low-income housing. She says for every 100 families in the lowest income bracket, there are just 19 affordable properties.

"Affordability has always been an issue and Houston specifically," Orduna said. "It becomes a domino effect because we are not targeting and servicing people in the most need. We are actually pricing them out, and then people who have units are being priced out because people under them are only able to afford things that are not affordable to them. "

The bottom line: There is not enough affordable housing in southeast Texas. Whether you're talking about buying a home, renting one, or affording a safe, clean space in which to live, there is no immediate solution. A problem a long time in the making, worsened by disasters and a pandemic, the hope is market conditions change and politicians act.

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