RUNNER-UP COMMENT OF THE DAY: READY FOR ICING OUTSIDE THE INNER LOOP ” . . . I think the real opportunity to expand affordable housing is in Houston’s ‘donut of despair’. The area between 610 and the Beltway (except around the Spring Branch area) is full of acres and acres of empty land. With a huge push from the City, these areas could be redeveloped into truly affordable neighborhoods with homes in the $150-250k range.” [Old School, commenting on Houston Home Sales Continue To Tumble; One More Link in the Grand Parkway] Illustration: Lulu
Large portions of this land, such as Aldine, aren’t inside city limits. Maybe the city should annex Aldine to connect Greenspoint to the rest of the city, but as of now the city isn’t going to be making any huge pushes there.
I completely agree! And it’s worth noting that the areas that already have homes in the “donut of despair” are priced in the $150-250k range.
That said, there are some pretty big hurdles to get past: one being land prices; another being the fact that much of the land is already broken into tracts that aren’t big enough for a major residential development; and yet another being potential brownfield problems. If the City (or someone else – Management Districts and TIRZs perhaps) can help address these issues, this idea could really take off.
If the oil situation doesn’t screw things up too bad, then some of the areas in the “donut” are bound to change over the next few years. Westbury and Oak Forest were the affordable alternatives to high inner-loop prices, but both have gentrified to a point that they are now out of a lot of folks price range. The affordability need they previously filled hasn’t gone away, so somebody is bound to be the “heir apparent” to the success of places like Westbury. Will Fondren SW finally turn around? Inwood Forest? Sharpstown? Entry level buyers that are dead set against far-flung burbs will have to go somewhere.
Call me crazy, but I think Gulfton and the Richmond Strip have a real chance of turning it around once they start replacing the building stock. A developer wouldn’t be silly at all to push for a complete streets redo of Richmond. Rename the district “Uptown West”, and market it toward budget-minded young professionals, and I think the area could do very well.
i have always referred to this are as the “Ring of Decay”
@TMR: I don’t think you’re nuts at all. Already Gulfton is in much better shape than Westwood. Less crime. Businesses are doing better. Not that that says much. The bigger issue is that Gulfton is surrounded on three sides by wealth. Uptown to the north and east. Bellaire to the south and east. people say it was inevitable that The Heights and the Washington Avenue Corridor would turn because of their proximity to Downtown and River Oaks. Gulfton has the same geographical relationship to Uptown and the Memorial Villages.
That said, the Multifamily housing in Gulfton is a major hurdle. It’s going to take a lot to get that addressed. There are two huge steps that need to be taken. First, the owners and managers of the apartment complexes need to come together, as they have in Brays Oaks, to Work together on improving the neighborhood. Then, and this is what I’ve been harping on for years, there needs to be a source of money to help rehab old apartment complexes. If both of those things happen, I would expect the neighborhood to really take off. But it’s a huge “If.”
ZAW, if you get the multi-family housing issue in Gulfton “addressed”, with properties either razed, or rehabbed ( with the consequence being higher rents), where are you going to move all the low income, first generation immigrants that occupy these places to? Many live in Gulfton because of good bus transit options, along with the fact that they probably have friends or relatives living there already. So where are these people going to go?
Gulfton is pretty similar to the East Riverside area of Austin: good location in terms of proximity to downtown and other desirable areas, but tons of aging, poorly maintained apartment complexes. East Riverside today is full of higher density and higher-cost apartments and vertical mixed use projects. In due time, market pressure will bring those complexes in Gulfton down – of course, displacing the current residents in the process, but resulting in a more “cleaned up” area.
The “donut” already contains neighborhoods like Fondren, Inwood Forest, Sharpstown, Gulton, Richmond Strip, etc. I think large NEW development in the “donut” would most likely be in Aldine, Acres Homes, South Main, & Sunnyside. But I hope there would be an effort to improve established donut neighborhoods too.
@Shady Heightster: The key is to keep a reasonable amount of affordable housing io allow at least some if not many of those first generation immigrants to stay.
Improve the housing, but keep it affordable by using tax credits and grants. Improve the neighborhood to attract higher income people, but preserve a good amount of affordable housing. This goes to the socio-economic diversity that the housing advocates say they’re after.
Again it’s something I’ve been saying all along.