Headlines: Houston’s Income Segregation; David Adickes’s High School Takeover

Photo: Jackson Myers via Swamplot Flickr pool

15 Comment

  • this is a great picture of the top of Chas/Gulf Oil building, thing is beautiful inside

  • Benny Cargill: I had a long-term temp assignment downtown about six years ago. One thing I liked to do when the weather cooperated and time permitted was taking a strool, looking at the architecture downtown. If building security was not so tight, I would have enjoyed taking an informal tour of the building’s interior.

    Slightly off topic, has anyone else noticed the reappearance of Gulf branded gas stations? I saw two formerly Mobil station signs, one close to home and one close to work, replaced with the Gulf logo. Anyone know the story and when this happened?

  • So is leading other cities by income segregation the secret to being the “coolest city”?

  • From SL:

    So is leading other cities by income segregation the secret to being the “coolest city”?


    I guess someone should ask the mayor.

  • Someone should also ask the mayor about the “income segregation” in Fourth Ward along with the “historic preservation” that so far has leveled 2,500 structures. And they should ask her about the $1 million to Camden Properties from the TIRZ funding and the “0” to affordable housing despite the state law requiring the latter.


  • Hanabi – you should be easily able to walk through the Gulf’s interior, at least the first floor. The banking lobby is open to the public and the security desk in the entry hall off Main won’t mind you walking through. I’ve taken tons of out-of-towners through there.

  • “The more income inequality there is, the more the upper classes live in a different world and in a different reality than the poor kids or the middle-class kids.”

    Is there really such a thing? Maybe he meant to say realty, which would be much more accurate and appropriate for Swamplot…

  • Thanks for the tip Mike!

  • I’m betting that the income segregation has mostly to do with all the new construction. Poor people don’t live in new construction. They can’t afford it yet, but one day they will. So that’s pretty innocuous.

    Of course, there is the tax credit exception. The way that TDHCA’s policies pan out, most new tax credit projects get built in the hood, having the effect of consolidating our poor amongst the already poor…a violation of the spirit of the federal law enabling the tax credit program. That would probably explain why Texas cities crowd out the top of the list.

  • I’m of the opinion that the new development is strongly related to the income segregation, but it’s a symptom, not a cause. The primary cause is that a large segment (probably a large majority) of homebuyers are quite purposeful in investing in a home that has geographic separation from lower-income residents. In particular they deliberately avoid locations where lower-income residents are zoned to the same public schools. Pure market demand. Developers just respond. I would think that this desire to self-segregate is a far greater influence on this measurement of income segregation than incremental effects from the locations of TDHCA tax credit projects, based on sheer quantity.

  • Or perhaps it’s related to how the census tracts are penciled in on the Houston map compared to other cities.

  • @ Local Planner: I don’t disagree that income segregation is deliberate among higher-income households, and particularly among those that purchase their homes. However, I would not be so quick to dismiss the effect of the TDHCA rules for scoring and awarding tax credits for new construction.

    A tax credit complex, if it were placed in a desirable suburban area with good schools and infrastructure, would have an immediate and measurable effect on the local schools zoned to it (an particularly elementary schools). There is also a perceptible impact to the market psychology in such an area, even if risks are only perceived and not real. Thereby, a tax credit complex may poison the well for a neighborhood made desirable by its prior income segregation as an indirect impact that could affect income segregation; and that is in addition to the direct impact to income de-segregation caused by its new residents being lower-income households.

    So what you are describing as market demand is a function of many variables, including the geographic distribution of tax credit apartment projects.

    Now consider that there have been approximately 121 new tax credit apartment projects built in the Houston region since 2000. I’m eyeballing that there are about three times as many new elementary schools, but I’d bet that fewer than half of those are likely to be in what this Pew study would indicate as an income-segregated neighborhood.

    So what do you suppose might happen to the pattern of income segregated neighborhoods if it were the policy of the TDHCA to attempt to award one new construction tax credit to every income-segregated area according to the zoning of its local elementary school?

    Never mind that it probably wouldn’t be politically feasible, but I would hypothesize that high-income households would become slightly less sensitive to an issue that was even just partly beyond their control. Private school enrollment might increase though; I’m betting that the Pew study didn’t take that into consideration from neighborhood to neighborhood.

  • @mek ju: Yes, there is such a thing. Try walking in the footsteps of each and you’ll see how greatly reality differs for them.

  • Perhaps Houston is the largest income segregated city, because it is also the largest city without zoning regulations. Therefore, those with the means create their own sort of zoning, by choosing to live in places that for the most part have a “master planned” component.

    Also, if you drive thru the areas where the upper income earners live, you find that these are some of the most visually attractive locations in and around Houston.

  • @The Niche: I don’t disagree with you necessarily. Certainly the uneven distribution of TDHCA tax credits has done more to re-affirm segregation that counter it. I am skeptical, however, that changing that policy would substantially reduce segregation though. Maybe a little, in the short term. But given that so many suburban home buyers try to avoid having any lower-priced housing in their school zone – whether TDHCA or not (it could even be entry-level for-sale single family like KB Homes), I think the home buyer market would start to make its adjustments immediately. I guess I’m skeptical that affluent suburban home buyers would “get used to it.”

    Example: look at the sharpening segregation occurring in Katy ISD north of the freeway vs. south. It’s hard to see trends happening on that scale being significantly altered by a couple of TDHCA developments that could be located in the southern portion (don’t anyone freak out, I’m just talking theoretically here). The overall trend is so big that any correction from the TDHCA developments would be just a blip; plus affluent families are likely to quit buying in the south Katy TDHCA school zones if there’s a noticeable impact on test scores or if the % economically disadvantaged rises. Furthermore, you’re not likely to see any more upscale housing developed north of the freeway, because home buyers who can afford choice will choose elsewhere.