The difference in Houstonian neighborhoods less than 15 miles apart from each other is concerning. Life expectancies and future incomes are much less in majority minority neighborhoods compared to the higher income areas right next to these communities. These are roots that were laid out at the beginning of the region’s history, but it is an issue demanding change today.
Affordable housing, resident services, and better support is needed in these areas for change to even begin. Contribution to part of that difference began in May of this year. A refurbished affordable housing community was announced in one of Houston’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods.
Known as the modern Ellis Island, Gulfton is one of the city’s most densely populated and diverse neighborhoods. 60% of the residents in this area are born outside of the United States, compared to only 29% of residents in the rest of the City of Houston. Over 50 languages are spoken in this area and the vast majority of these residents are of Latinx and/or Hispanic origin.
As culturally diverse as the neighborhood profile is compared to the City of Houston, the economic and demographic statistics are disproportionately different and not in the best of ways.
Houston’s median household income is around $46,000, Gulfton’s median family income is only around $23,000. The neighborhood’s poverty rate climbed from 12% in 1980 to 41% in 2018 and currently, 60% of these residents are burdened by housing cost.
What is Cost-Burdened Housing?
A household is considered cost-burdened when 30% or more of its income is spent on housing. This 30% threshold was historically set as the precedent, but there is no scientific justification for it. Conceptionally, it is used to identify the households that spend a disproportionate amount of their income on housing compared to other living necessities. To be severely-cost burdened means that 50% or more of your income is spent on housing.
The most cost-burdened group of people are low-income individuals, those who make less than 80% of that area’s median income. This group of people continually face affordability challenges as the number of rental units in the U.S. has failed to keep up with the number of rental households. These lower income households are usually left to reside in poorer quality housing units.
From 2001 to 2017 the number of cost-burdened renter households rose by 6%. To put things into perspective, the portion of cost-burdened households ranging from extremely low-income, very low-income, and low-income renters in 2017 was 89%, 83%, and 54% respectively. In comparison, only 20% of moderate-income earners and 6% of higher income households were cost burdened.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office also assessed that 15% of U.S. housing units (which housed over 5 million households) had significant quality issues and/or were incomplete. This included everything from cracked walls to rodent infestations. Low-income earners made up more than half of the households occupying these types of units.
Contributing to the Change: South Rice Apartments
The statistics have proved the obvious, we need more good quality affordable housing units. The lack of affordable housing creates a vicious cycle within these poverty encumbered communities like Gulfton. Communities that commonly consist of a high percentage of minority groups which then generate further racial and economic disparities.
The City of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department announced back in May of this year the grand opening of the newest affordable housing community in Gulfton, The South Rice Apartments.
The community was built near the Galleria and the city of Bellaire, an area which consists of essential public amenities, commerce, strong school ratings, and low poverty concentrations. South Rice Apartments is a prime location for a thriving community and incorporates easy accessibility to shopping, parks, libraries, and public transit.
The Mayor, Sylvester Turner, had an original vision of adding 7,000 multifamily units to the city’s affordable housing inventory, and surely that plan is beginning to break ground.
Continued Plan of Action
Houston’s affordable housing situation is only on the cusp of rectification. The city has created plans of action, some of which are underway, for certain communities such as Gulfton.
This Complete Community Action Plan for Gulfton outlines the upcoming vision of improvement, policies, and goals of the project. Some of these include increasing the area’s median income, increasing voter participation, maintaining all Houston ISD schools up to TEA standards, reducing the unemployment rate, reducing the number of cost-burdened households and so much more.
Portfolio Resident Services
Preserving these affordable housing communities through resident services has been proven to preserve stability in this asset class. This means rent is reliably paid more commonly in affordable housing communities that provide resident services.
Portfolio Resident Services is a nonprofit that abides by the intentional mission of improving the life of low-income households and senior living communities. We provide social assistance (resident services) to these housing communities through programs designed to raise culture and family standards.
Learn more about what Portfolio Resident Services can provide to your community.
Let’s work together!