May 21, 2024 - News

Houstonians still troubled by finances and crime

Photo of Houston's skyline

Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

Houston-area residents continue to express concerns about the economy, affordable housing, and crime and safety, according to Rice University's 43rd annual Kinder Houston Area Survey.

The intrigue: An overwhelming number of the Harris County residents surveyed are excited about their futures: 72% of participants said they are enthused about new opportunities that will be available to them in the coming years.

  • The survey, which provides an annual snapshot of the region, was given to 7,610 people living in Harris County in January, with a 70.6% response rate.

What they found: Crime and safety were cited as the biggest concern by more than a quarter of those surveyed, making it the most commonly reported concern for the second consecutive year. But Houstonians are much less concerned about crime than they were in the 1990s.

  • More than 1 in 5 residents said housing affordability was the region's biggest problem, pointing to corporations, landlords and neighborhood opposition as the causes of affordability challenges.

Between the lines: The biggest concerns varied based on participants' locations. Housing costs were the top concern for outlying areas near Waller County, Katy and Cypress as well as Inner Loop neighborhoods like the Heights, Lazybrook and Garden Oaks.

  • But for parts of southwest Houston, which have been hit hard by flooding, infrastructure was named the city's biggest problem.

The report, released Monday, concluded before the recent storm, which is predicted to result in damage amounting to billions of dollars.

Stunning stat: The percentage of Houstonians who do not have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency reached its highest level recorded in the survey's history.

  • 46% of survey respondents said they cannot afford a $400 emergency with cash on hand.
  • 29% of Houstonians reported that their financial situation has worsened in the past few years.

Context: The $400 emergency fund benchmark often serves as an indicator of Houstonians' financial standing. Most recently, it has been referenced by proponents of Harris County's guaranteed income program, which the Texas Supreme Court blocked following an appeal by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Plus: When asked about Houston's place in the energy sector, 87% of survey respondents said Bayou City should lead the way in the transition to alternative energy.

  • Three-quarters of respondents agreed that the energy sector's top priority in Texas should be expanding and improving technologies for alternative energy sources like wind, solar, and hydrogen.
  • Houston-area residents anticipate that climate change will likely affect them personally and harm the region's economy. About 60% of survey respondents expressed varying degrees of concern about its impact.
  • Support for investments in education has shown an increase, with 70% of residents agreeing that schools require more funding for high-quality education.

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