Houston Just as Expensive as New York City, Study Says

The extra costs of automobile dependency turn assumptions about affordability on their head, according to a recently published report by the Citizens Budget Commission.

2 minute read

January 21, 2020, 12:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Houston Metro

CC0 / Public Domain / Good Free Photos

Peter Holley writes on the changes that rapid growth have brought to Houston, and the underappreciate costs of living in a sprawling city:

Though we don’t have up-to-date grotto figures, several million people found Houston’s sales pitch compelling enough to move to the Bayou City in recent decades, with the region gaining 1.1 million residents since 2010 alone, according to the Greater Houston Partnership. Outside a few ritzy pockets intimately tied to oil prices, the city evolved into a sprawling mass of suburban affordability—a Levittown on steroids for the new American South.

According to Holley, the "seemingly endless suburban growth" has had a "crucial downside" that doesn't have to do with repeated, catastrophic flooding: increasing housing costs.

While the seemingly endless suburban growth has traditionally offered the city the veneer of affordability, the sprawl has also spiked transportation costs, so much so that the city’s combined transportation and living costs now place it on par with New York City….

The conclusion comes from a report by the Citizens Budget Commission, titled "Rent and Ride."

"Monthly median housing costs in Houston in 2016 (the most recent year data was available) were $1,379, nearly $400 less than New York City. However, median transportation costs were $1,152, a figure 38 percent higher than for New Yorkers," according to Holley. "In total, the study found, living in Houston was only $79 cheaper each month than New York."

Planetizen blogger and founder and executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute Todd Litman has done similar work to document a more clear and thorough picture of affordability based on transportation costs, as exemplified in the following posts, among others.

Friday, January 17, 2020 in Texas Monthly

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Walkway at San Gabriel River Park.

From Duck Farm to Parkland

The opening of the San Gabriel River Park expands access to green spaces for residents in the San Gabriel Valley, especially for Avocado Heights and other park-poor communities in the area.

6 hours ago - San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Oak tree with golden hour sun coming through its leaves on a hill in the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California.

Southern California’s Oak Trees are Under Threat

Goldspotted oak borers (GSOB) are invasive pests that are harming and killing oak trees across San Diego, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.

7 hours ago - Los Angeles Times

Close-up of natural gas stove burner with blue flames.

Berkeley Voters to Decide on Building Gas Tax

The city could tax large buildings that use gas in lieu of enacting a law that would have banned gas-powered buildings altogether.

June 12 - Smart Cities Dive

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.