The Kinder Institute’s inaugural State of Housing in Harris County and Houston report provides a consistent and accessible baseline of information about housing-related issues to all Houstonians. This report will be updated annually to track shifts in how the housing system in our region is changing. This first report compares how dozens of key housing indicators have shifted between 2010 and 2018. Subsequent annual reports will add the latest year of data to the analysis and track trends over time. To see indicators at the community level visit the Houston Community Data Connections State of Housing Dashboard.

Harris County and Houston have a reputation for housing affordability, but many of the findings of this report show that this affordability is disappearing. Current homeowners are somewhat cushioned from this shift as the values of homes have risen throughout the county, increasing the value of many households’ biggest asset. The loss of affordability is falling heaviest on renters. Middle-income renters, those traditionally expected to enter into homeownership, are finding themselves without the resources to buy even a median-priced home in Houston or Harris County, thus forcing them to remain as renters. Low-income renters face quickly increasing rents across the county and are squeezed into the few areas where affordable rentals still exist. For low-income renters, homeownership is a near-impossibility without significant public subsidy.

Other key findings include:

  • There are more renters than homeowners in the city of Houston and renters are nearing a majority in all of Harris County.
  • Nearly half the renter households in Harris County are spending more than 30% of their income on housing, classifying them as cost-burdened.
  • A quarter of homes face significant flood risk and the number is likely to grow as new maps expand mapped floodplains.
  • Black homeownership dropped significantly in the Great Recession and lags far behind White, Hispanic, and Asian homeownership rates.
  • Harris County is the center of the region’s job and economic activity, but the population is growing at a faster rate outside of the county. This spatial mismatch between work and home results in major transportation costs for Harris County households.
  • Trends in the construction of new housing show growing multi-family supply. While many units are being built, they tend to be higher priced, and existing affordable units are declining.
  • Growth of people over the age of 65 and those with disabilities may present housing and service provision challenges to both Harris County and the city of Houston.
  • Heads of households between the ages of 25 and 39 are settling equally between Harris County and the city of Houston, though families with children continue to locate outside of the city.
  • Both Harris County and the city of Houston are seeing more people of different income levels living in close proximity. At the same time, many predominantly high-income and low-income areas have seen income-based residential segregation intensify. 

On October 15, the Kinder Institute is hosting a workshop with residents, housers, public officials and other stakeholders to solicit input about how to refine the State of Housing report for the 2021 version.

The Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University has also been enlisted to conduct a housing study by Harris County that will examine the types and prices of homes needed in our communities. This effort, known as “ My Home is Here ,” will help us to better understand the complexities around homes for all residents of Harris County. You can take the survey here.

The Kinder Institute is grateful to Wells Fargo for its lead and ongoing support of the annual State of Housing in Harris County and Houston research.

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