Changing Third Ward: How rising home prices are pushing out families

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022
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Pricy townhomes and condominiums are popping up on what feels like every block. That means families who lived here for years are pushed out of their homes even faster than you mig

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- All you have to do is look at Houston's Third Ward to know it's changing quickly.

Pricy townhomes and condominiums are popping up on what feels like every block. That means families who lived here for years are pushed out of their homes even faster than you might expect.

"They were going up on the taxes. They were telling me my house was worth more than what it was worth," said 79-year-old Clara Mouton. "I said, 'If it's worth more than what it's worth, why don't you give me that money, and I'll get something else?' 'Oh no, Ms. Mouton, we can't do that.'"

In 2021, Mouton left behind the home where she raised her family and ended up about a mile away in The Bottoms, historically the poorest part of northern Third Ward.

Home values are going up here, too, though.

"History. We don't have (any) more history because they done took it all. They took all our history," Mouton said.

In an area with little unused land, an old home is down nearly every time you see a new condo going up.

Three in four residents in Third Ward are renters and are more likely to have trouble paying rent here than in nearly any other part of Harris County.

"If you look at the difference between the 2010 and 2020 census, Third Ward lost over 8,000 African American residents, even though it grew 35% overall in population," said Ed Pettit, with Texas Southern University. "Third Ward went from being more than three quarters African American to now less than 45% African American, (which) creates a situation where the history and culture are at risk."

Nonprofits like Project Row Houses and the Shape Center work with residents and developers to encourage low and moderate-income housing.

"It's so important that we maintain little programs that can benefit those who are just below the poverty level, but also in an ownership position," said community activist Richard Johnson.

Community programs don't work as quickly as prices are rising.

"The house across the street from me at one time was $35,000. Now, this is, I think, $250,000 or $300,000. That's a huge change. That's what's happening in the neighborhood," said Dr. Veon McReynolds, who started a community bike tour called Tour De Hood nearly 20 years ago.

On two tires, it's easier to see the history all around you.

And in historic Third Ward, history also means cycles of displacement.

"Black communities are always separated by the freeway," Dr. McReynolds said. "We didn't just happen to move to this area. It was by design by the powers that be that we live where we live. And we have the standard of living that we have."

"That's why it's important for my generation to step out. Be the young leaders, and be the hope for change," said Third Ward resident Henry Ellis. "We are the future and just getting out, conversations like this. Getting out, and talking about the importance of buying our property so we can maintain a level of culture that you don't see anywhere else in the city of Houston."

It's a past worth celebrating for a future yet to be decided.

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