Scarcely a month has gone by over the past few years without home prices across Greater Houston climbing to a new record. That's been a plus for the real estate market a whole, but it's put a heavy burden on lower-income residents. Shad Bogany is a past chairman of both the Houston Association of Realtors and the Texas Association of Realtors. He joins Andrew Schneider on this week's installment of the Bauer Business Focus to discuss the region's shortage of affordable housing.
What's considered affordable housing in Houston today?
"In the past...you could find a house anywhere between $50,000 to $100,000 ... and they were easy to be found. Now, it's very hard to find a home under $200,000 in really good condition."
One of the biggest factors driving Houston's real estate market in recent years has been the number of people moving to the region to take jobs in the oil and gas industry. Not all of those jobs are at the high end of the pay scale, so why is so much of the home construction focused there?
"Because that's where the big bucks are. Subsequently ... we're seeing a lot of apartment building going on … and most of the apartments that are being built are A+ apartments... [with] monthly lease payments of $1,500, $1,600 and up."
What affordable housing is actually out there?
"There are apartments out here…called tax credit apartments... You go to the state, and you sign up through the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs, and you build an apartment [complex], and you say you're going to make it affordable. A two-bedroom [unit] would probably run you $700-$800 a month...where, on the market rate, that may run you $1,100, $1,200, $1,300 a month."
Why are these units so difficult to find?
"We have a thing called NIMBYism... ‘Not in my backyard.' [When someone suggests building low-income housing,] all the neighbors in the neighborhood get together...and start complaining. They start calling their city councilman, their state representative, their congressperson, and say, ‘We don't want this in our neighborhood. It's going to bring down our property values.'"
What affect does that lack of affordable housing have on the local economy?
"People have always moved here because we've always had affordable housing... If Houston becomes less affordable, companies are not going to...want to come here anymore... A lot of times, the reason they're leaving their old place is because it's become unaffordable for the employees to be able to own homes."