Does Houston Really Need Any More People?
When your city is this pretty, plenty of people will want to make it home.
Photos by Yuri Peña
Last week, yet another list was released noting all of the amazing things Houston has to offer. This time around the list was released by Business Insider, an online publication widely read in the business community, entitled 18 Facts That Make Houston The Best City in America. Yeah, no joke; H-Town is being called the "best city" in the entire country - evidently backed up by facts.
On this blog, I've grabbed several of these lists to either applaud or dump on, but the real "fact" of the matter is that Houston keeps showing up on them. Like it or not, this city has become a force to be reckon with. (And we even use the word "reckon" in daily conversation.)
I have personally mused that perhaps one of the reasons that Houston keeps throwing things at the wall in the hopes that they stick, i.e. getting people to realize what a great city this is and that they should all move here, is that we've got a branding issue. I stand by this assertion, but I think it needs some adjusting. We may have a branding issue, but I'm not sure it matters much in getting people here; they are already coming and if all of the economic/demographic data is correct, it's not slowing down.
Enter the city's newest advertising campaign, "Houston: The City With No Limits," which was launched last month via the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP). The promotion is splashy and stylish; it looks like a lot of money went into it and, as I understand it, it did, with more to go. According to the Chronicle, roughly $12 million will be spent over the next five or six years on this campaign, with the initiative's purpose of getting people to move here.
My question is, though, aren't people already moving here? From the looks of it, we are already running out of room. How many more people do we really need?
I ask this question, to myself, as I walk through my neighborhood of Oak Forest. Every day a new house goes up for sale either as a teardown or a renovation; the following week, most of these houses have "Sold" signs adorning their perfectly manicured lawns. When the houses are torn down, they swiftly turn into two-story cookie-cutter mansions, appearing, what feels like, within days - always a sign of quality craftsmanship.
I've heard stories from neighbors, perhaps these are urban legends, that residents are selling their homes for $100 thousand above asking, with bidding wars like crazy that result in purchases with cash. I can only dream such a thing happens when I want to sell my own home. And of course that dream involves a briefcase filled with gold bars and/or somebody's soul.
Michael Wachs, an agent with the Hunter Real Estate Group, acknowledges that there is a lack of available inventory and in his professional opinion things need to change.
"From January to May of 2014, there has been a 6% increase in townhouse and condo sales from the previous year. And inventory is still incredibly low. People are having a tough time finding something. It's not hyperbole to say houses are going faster than ever: That's fact."
According to a recent report released by the GHP that was put together by The Perryman Group, from '12 to '40 there is an estimated population growth averaging 1.80 percent annually in the Houston area. What does that mean? Well by 2040 Houston could see a population of over 10 million. For your reference we are currently at roughly 6. For those of us that don't know math, that's 4 million people. Where the hell are all those people going to go?
Obviously, 2040 is a while away and by that point we can hope that Houston's infrastructure will be able to support its massive growth with flying cars a plenty, but that growth is already in full effect. Between the 2010 and 2012 census dates, Houston added 9,530 residents per month. And according to U- Haul's migration trend report, Houston was the number one destination for people to move to... for the fourth year running.
As is, traffic has become comically bad; the real estate market is starting to slow for the first time in recent months due to the sheer fact that we are running out of places to put people. Our schools are becoming over-populated and you have to literally wait on line for sometimes an hour to get into that new Italian place Coltivare.
I ask again: do we need more people here?
What I fear is that the more people that come, the worse off Houston will become. I am not trying to keep our gem of a city a secret, I just worry we cannot keep up with the growing impression of awesome that Houston is presenting to the world out there.
Wachs tends to agree that something's got to give. "My personal hope," he continues, "is that developers--residential, commercial, mixed--realize that the best thing to do for a buck and the best thing to do for Houston in the long run is to invest in some architecture... Give people something to care about."
I care about this city already, but I also worry that the bubble is going to burst. What do you think?
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events