Houston, infamous for it’s Viet-Cajun cuisine, the Johnson Space Center, the old Astrodome, and notably its sprawling highways and blacktops. For those who have never visited Houston, the marshes of Texas’ coasts can be unforgiving. The prairie regions surrounding the port of Houston had to be transformed to solidify its foothold as the energy export capital of Texas. City planners replaced natural creek-beds, prairie lands, and marshy ditches with concrete culverts and drain-ways — sealing Houston’s fate as a flood-prone metropolitan city forever.
Apart from the occasional hurricane, and the muggy summers, the cost of living in Houston used to be relatively inexpensive — at least until recent decades. The rising economic cost of flood damages, growing gridlock, gasoline prices, and maintaining a car during the era of tumultuous climate change has made it difficult for the middle class to thrive. In fact, it’s much worse than we thought.
According to reporting from Texas Monthly, Houston’s affordability has dried up along with its protective prairie lands:
Furthermore, when considering housing and transportation costs as a percentage of income, Houston (and Dallas–Fort Worth, for that matter) appear significantly less affordable than cities with much more expensive housing, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. The annual median household income in Houston was just under $61,000 in 2016, while in New York that same figure was just over $69,000. As a result, Houstonians spend just under 50 percent of their income on those combined costs, whereas New Yorkers spend just over 45 percent.
It may be a cheaper opportunity cost to move and to live in Houston. For example, buying a house in a Houston suburb is vastly cheaper than buying a home just about anywhere outside the Tri-State area in New York. But, transportation and environmental costs continue to mount in Houston.
Until Texas Central builds a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas, I’m afraid that all Texas metropolitan areas will face the same fate. Cars and highways don’t scale well when the vast majority of city residents live in suburbia.