Houston Matters

Is it About Race or Income? How We Define Gentrification in Houston

You may have heard Andrew Schneider’s story a week ago about a recent study from Rice University’s Shell Center for Sustainability, which found the cost of living in Houston is no longer a bargain. According to the 5th Houston Sustainability Indicators Report, Houstonians spend more than 45 percent of their income on transportation and housing, the definition the U.S. Department of Transportation uses […]

You may have heard Andrew Schneider’s story a week ago about a recent study from Rice University’s Shell Center for Sustainability, which found the cost of living in Houston is no longer a bargain. According to the 5th Houston Sustainability Indicators Report, Houstonians spend more than 45 percent of their income on transportation and housing, the definition the U.S. Department of Transportation uses to determine affordability. It’s evidence of how definitions matter — how one person or entity or report defines a term can change the very nature of debate about that term.

There was another conclusion drawn in that report which intrigued us. According to the press release we received about it, Rice research fellow and report author Lester King “said his research indicates that gentrification is not really occurring” in Houston.

That would seem to run counter to conventional wisdom — not to mention a number of conversations we’ve had the last couple of years – with residents in a number of Houston neighborhoods, from Montrose to The Heights to the Third Ward. Folks there say, yes, absolutely, gentrification is occurring. In fact, King’s report examines the Third Ward, and cites population shifts, but concludes they don’t meet the report’s defined threshold of gentrification. Again, definitions matter.

How do we define “gentrification?” We talk with Lester King about how he defines it in his report, and why, and how that may differ from how others define the term.

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