Houston-area home prices jumped during the COVID-19 pandemic

The median sales price of a home is now $285,000 in Harris County and $315,000 in Houston.

Housing prices have skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising by 16% in Harris County from 2020-2021.

That's higher than the typical 6% annual growth average of the last decade, researchers with the Rice University Kinder Institute for Urban Research said.

"This is really one of the first opportunities we have to see post-COVID data," said the Kinder Institute's Luis Guajardo. "This is intended to help us all be on the same wavelength when we talk about housing locally."

Guajardo made the comments during a webinar Wednesday to present the institute’s 2022 State of Housing report.

The report focused on a variety of findings, including the significant increase in median sales housing prices. The median sales price of a home is now $285,000 in Harris County and $315,000 in Houston.

Researchers found the spike is linked to the housing shortage and increased prices of home resells, which is "concerning" to researchers, as resells make up a large part of the affordable housing market.

According to the report, demand for single-family homes has driven up prices and lowered inventory. This has made homeownership further out of reach for the median renter household.

The median price of a home in Harris County, $285,000, is nearly double the price a median renter can afford to buy, at $149,000.

Houston renters also face financial challenges and struggle to pay rent, with more than 10% unable to make rent payments at some point between April 2020 and September 2021.

The report found that Black and Hispanic mortgage applicants encounter higher interest rates and face more denials on lower-valued properties.

Despite this, researchers discovered Hispanic home buyers will soon become the largest racial/ethnic group in the county.

On the other hand, Black homeownership is on the decline across the region.

"As it stands, the Black homeownership rate is about half of that of the white population, and much much lower than the county's overall homeownership rate, which sits at about 55%," Guajardo said. "These figures are concerning for a number of reasons about urban inequality and racial disparities and wealth generation."

The report concluded by predicting that the next natural or medical disaster will "disproportionately affect lower-income communities," with approximately 474,000 of the rental units included in the census at high risk for disaster.

"Overall, it seems that things only got worse. But there were some signs of hope," the report stated, pointing to Houston's "Housing First" model that has helped house thousands of homeless individuals.