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Report: Houston No Longer An ‘Affordable’ Place To Live

According to federal standards, a region is considered affordable when housing plus transportation cost a resident no more than 45 percent of household income.


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Houston has traditionally benefited from having a much lower cost of living than other major U.S. cities. It's a major selling point when the region is trying to attract new residents and businesses. But a study from Rice University finds the cost of living in Houston is no longer a bargain. The report finds that Houston ranks 26th in the nation for affordability among cities with more than 250,000 people.

"In terms of housing prices, we find that Houston is still very competitive," says Lester King, a research fellow at Rice's Shell Center for Sustainability and author of the report. "But today, most experts don't rely on housing prices alone. When we look at affordability, we actually have to include transportation costs, because transportation costs tend to be the next-largest slice of people's budget."

The U.S. Department of Transportation says that, for a region to be considered affordable, individuals should not spend more than 45 percent of their household income on transportation and housing combined. The average Houstonian spends 46 percent.

King says marketing efforts promoting Houston may actually be contributing to the problem. They often refer to an expected population increase of 3.5 million people by 2035. Harris County has been raising its assessment of property values in part based on that projected growth. In fact, the report finds the bulk of that growth is likely to take place in the surrounding counties of Greater Houston, rather than within the city limits.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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