On March 25, 2014, I wrote the City Council of Houston a three part letter that included my thoughts on improving the city’s transportation, health, and economics. This is part three of that letter.
“The rent price goes up $200 per month”
My realtor and I worked hard and we found a place that was “semi-walkable” by my definition but that would allow me to walk to work. When I first toured the complex, it was $1,260 for a 700 sq. ft. one bedroom. A week later, when I went back to sign the lease, they informed me that they would only allow me to sign a six month lease at that rate. “What happens after that?” I asked. “The rent price goes to $1,460 per month,” the leasing agent replied.
One of the key selling points for young professionals to move to Houston (and, often, to accept a lower salary in doing so) is that it’s an inexpensive city to live in compared to the North. This isn’t true. Housing prices are rising steeply and quickly because of limited supply and increased demand.
Skyrocketing housing prices and stagnant salaries mean less money to donate, to spend at restaurants and during social activities, to invest, etc. and that doesn’t bode well for the city overall. If this balance isn’t changed, it’s going to be much harder to attract people to come and live/work in the City of Houston and those of us who do live here will spend less due to being “rent poor.”
I applaud your efforts thus far, but wanted to write you to encourage you to do more. We need commuter rail, we need more living areas that are permanently walkable, and we need housing options that are affordable relevant to our salaries.
I will also be publishing this letter to my blog, not as a means of social pressure, but in hopes of gaining additional thoughts on the subject.
Using Chicago as a lens in my life, I’ve always wanted to live somewhere where I could walk to work. Or, at the very least, walk to shops and restaurants. So, when I decided to move into “the loop” I explained to the apartment locator that I wanted “to live somewhere walkable.” Unfortunately, we found that there were very few options in Houston that fit my “walkable” definition and those options were well beyond my budget (defined as 25% of my take-home pay with utilities not factored). That is, unless, I wanted to relive my college days and live in 570 square feet.
Imagine the health benefits if we got in our cars less and, instead, could find affordable housing in truly “walkable” areas.
Part 1: Dear Houston, “Where’s the commuter train station?”
On March 25, 2014, I wrote the City Council of Houston a three part letter that included my thoughts on improving the city’s transportation, health, and economics. This is part one of that letter.
Dear Houston City Council,
I recently read the article in Culture Map about the new Sunday Streets program and would like to share my thoughts on reducing obesity, increasing health, and making Houston a more attractive place to live.
For context, I’d like to share a little about me. I’m a young professional in my early 30’s. I moved to Houston two years ago for work, living first in Tomball/Willowbrook and now in the loop. Originally from Michigan, I frequented Chicago quite often. I am in very good health and work out six days per week on average. While the below comments are constructive, I’d like to emphasize that overall I absolutely love my adopted city of Houston and these are provided as suggestions of making the city even better.
“Where’s the commuter train station?”
One of my first questions when I moved to the Tomball/Willowbrook area was “Where’s the commuter train station?” which lead to some puzzled looks but mostly polite laughs of my ignorance. Having only visited Houston once before moving here, I hadn’t caught on to the fact that transportation isn’t like Chicago, there is no commuter train and you need a car to go practically anywhere.
The City of Houston has made great strides in the past few years to incorporate public transportation into the city, but a lot of work still needs to be done. Adding more lanes, or another tollway, isn’t a long-term solution. As painful as it is, we need to invest in serious commuter rail. That is the only significant way to reduce the congestion.
Not only will it reduce the congestion, but it will also improve the quality of life for many of us. For a while, I was spending an average of 2 1/2 hours per day commuting. Imagine what else I could have been doing with that time.
Unfortunately, however, the project couldn’t end there. The problem still exists when you do arrive in the city. I was shocked at the lack of taxi options and public transportation options within the city. The trains you’ve built have helped, but there still needs to be more transportation options in the city.