In-Depth

As Houston Keeps Expanding, So Does Suburban Apartment Construction

It’s not just single-family homes that are in demand in the ‘burbs.

Houston’s population is ever-growing – and with it, the demand for new housing.

We often hear that more people, especially Millennials, are moving to the urban core. But the growth is also happening at Houston’s outer edges. And it’s not just single-family homes that are in demand in the ‘burbs.

A new apartment complex in Cypress called Lakeside Row is the latest addition to the master-planned community Bridgeland just off the Grand Parkway near US-290.

The majority of the development is single-family homes. So far there are four “villages” that are all a mix of homes, apartments and businesses.

“Bridgeland is an 11,400-acre master-planned community,” said Heath Melton, an executive vice president at the Howard Hughes Corporation, which is building the community. “We’re 14 years in creation and we currently have about 12,000 residents living in Bridgeland.”

Of those, 450 live in the current two apartment complexes.

So, single-family home living appears to still be king in the suburbs, but apartments are definitely part of the mix.

“Katy/Cinco Ranch/Waterside has always been a submarket that has been attractive to apartment development as well as single-family development,” Bruce McClenny, president of Houston-based ApartmentData.com, said.

In that segment in and around Katy, there are currently more than 2,500 apartment units under construction, according to ApartmentData.com.

That rivals the Montrose/Midtown/Museum District submarket (2,700).

The only area with more new apartment construction is the Heights/Washington area, with more than 3,300 apartments in the pipeline.

Overall in Greater Houston, there are nearly 23,000 apartment units being built right now, compared to the 30,000 single-family home starts in the past year, according to Metrostudy.

“Out of that, about, in ballpark terms, about 26,000 or so of those were in what you’d consider to be suburban locations,” Lawrence Dean, Houston regional director for the data firm, said.

So the vast majority of single-family homes are being built in the suburbs, which is what you might expect. But should we be surprised that half of all apartments under construction are also in the ‘burbs? Wasn’t the conventional wisdom that young renters want the urban life, close to jobs and entertainment?

“It used to that people would go out and live in the suburbs and then drive into downtown or drive into the Galleria and that’s where most of the businesses were, where the jobs were,” McClenny said. “But the jobs scenario has changed.”

Now, he said, there are plenty of jobs in Katy or The Woodlands – be it in retail, hospitals or schools districts. And there’s also an increasing selection of entertainment options.

Melton said for Bridgeland, a town center is planned, similar to the one in The Woodlands.

He said the types of people who choose to live in his suburban apartments vary greatly.

“From young business professionals that obviously aren’t married or have families just yet, they’re choosing to live in these apartments with us,” Melton said. “We do have some families that are making that decision right now that are moving in.”

And then there are people who want to first get a feel for the community before buying a house.

“So they want to get in, establish some roots, feel out the community, before they make one of the biggest decisions in their life from a financial standpoint of purchasing a home,” Melton said. “All the way to the empty nester profile, those folks that are choosing a for-rent product because they want that lower-maintenance, lock-and-leave lifestyle.”

But even though it may feel that way, experts say the multi-family push to the suburbs isn’t a new phenomenon.

“If you look at life stages of communities in the suburbs, you’ll see that [is] generally how it takes place,” Melton said. “The front end is always the single-family and then it’s followed by retail, followed by other housing options and then office components as well.”

Dean said as long as people keep moving to Houston, development will push in all directions – but especially in the west of the city, where there’s still plenty of empty land available.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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