Researchers at the Kinder Institute estimated the annual cost of evictions to Harris County, where more people are evicted each year than anywhere in the U.S., with the exception of New York. The increasing costs of evictions eat up funding that could go toward improving the county’s public health, transportation, public safety and education infrastructure.
In the past decade, as home prices and rents have increased faster than incomes for many residents of Houston and Harris County, buying a home has become increasingly difficult, according to Kinder Institute research.
By design, Houston is car-dependent. Yet, Kinder Surveys have shown that half of Houstonians want to live where they can walk more and drive less. Recently approved ordinances that promote walkability in neighborhoods should help. Importantly, in certain areas, the new regulations will eliminate and reduce minimum parking requirements, which are considered costly, unfair and inefficient by many experts.
For the average Harris County household, the combined costs of housing and transportation are at the edge of affordability. Add to that the growing distance between home locations and jobs, and the costs quickly can become unsustainable, particularly for lower-income households.
Large Sun Belt cities have similar strengths, such as strong economies and relatively low costs of living. They also face the same problems, like growing income inequality and rising housing costs. A Kinder Institute report concludes that Sun Belt cities need to find new ways to address their common urban issues.
In the past month, new and greater focus has been placed on the need to address economic, environmental, educational and health care inequalities related to race in the U.S. For many years, systemic racism has limited access to housing as well. Here, we take a look at findings from the Kinder Institute’s State of Housing report in the context of Settegast, a historically Black neighborhood in northeast Houston.
Texas and other small-government Sun Belt states, which were already were limited in their capacity to respond in times of economic crisis, were hit hard by big drops in consumer spending resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. As the second part of the pandemic’s first wave now washes over many of these states, it remains to be seen what effect it will have on their floundering economies.
Dozens of key housing indicators in Houston and Harris County shifted between 2010 and 2018, and in just the past several months the area has been hit by parallel economic and public health crises that have slowed home sales, disrupted the rental market and halted new development, making it even more difficult for many area residents to find affordable housing.
In the past 20 years, many social functions and gaps in city services have fallen to police departments, which, at the same time, have been acquiring more paramilitary equipment. Now, as cities face large budget deficits because of revenue losses from the COVID-19 pandemic and protestors call for defunding the police, it's yet to be seen how police services will be affected.
Large cities of the Sun Belt are getting bigger and younger faster than metro areas in other parts of the country. They also face a combination of challenges unlike those metros in other regions; however, American urban policy as we know it was created for traditional Northeastern and Midwestern cities.
The state’s property tax reform bill, which limits the amount cities and counties can raise property taxes to 3.5%, is expected to significantly affect one of the largest sources of revenue for local governments. Many will be looking for ways to circumvent the financial constraints of the measure. That’s something Houston has been dealing with since 2004.
Houston lost $25 million in sales tax revenue in March alone because of COVID-19. But the city’s fiscal struggles existed before the coronavirus pandemic. A new Kinder Institute report compares the revenue sources and service levels among the three largest cities in Texas — Houston, Dallas and San Antonio — all of which are expected to see COVID-19-related revenue losses of between 10 and 15%. Of the three, Houston is the most constrained in its options for increasing revenue.
Many have lost jobs and many more have seen pay and hours cut during the pandemic. Industries that have been able to transition to work-from-home have been some of the least impacted.
The economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak coupled with the pandemic being politicized by some will challenge the feelings of solidarity and trust that have been building in Houston in recent years. It’s important to remember the city and surrounding region’s ability to unite in the face of disaster.
Interviews for the 2020 Kinder Houston Area Survey were conducted just before the world was upended. The results of the survey reflect the existing disparities in health care and economics that the COVID-19 outbreak has underscored and exacerbated.