Coping with change in the Near Northside

Houston Chronicle, July 2, 2015                                                          

The Near Northside, traditionally Hispanic community just north of downtown, has been bracing for the tensions that arise as developers look to scoop up land  in the transitioning neighborhood.

In a recent report, “The State of the Northside,” community development group Avenue CDC found that participation and community leadership has increased from 96 participants in 2010 to 14,147 in 2014, crime has declined more than 22 percent since 2010 (dropping 39 percent below Houston’s rate) and the median sales price of homes has increased 56 percent since 2009.

The neighborhood’s prime location has led to skyrocketing property values. A new Metro rail line now sees 3,000 residents use the line every day, the report found.

Avenue CDC says it is working to preserve the “culture and history of the neighborhood while improving quality.” Many surrounding neighborhoods and other Inner Loop communities have seen the history and character dramatically alter as developers build new townhome communities and apartment communities in areas like Midtown, the Fourth Ward, the First Ward and even in the Woodland Heights. All these neighborhoods have seen property values skyrocket, displacing middle and lower income residents.

In September, Avenue CDC will host a final planning day for a “Quality of Life Agreement” with the neighborhood to allow neighbors to have input on what they would like to see in the neighborhood.

Key in the group’s mission to build affordable housing for this Houston neighborhood. This issue is key in the recently released “Plan Houston” by the city of Houston and the Planning and Development Department. Plan is not a work typically synonymous with the famously non-zoned city. Yet, the plan lays out general guidance on how leaders want the city to grow, with more than a million more people expected to move here in the next two decades.

A key part of the plan is affordable housing. City data show the residential real estate market has one of the lowest homeownership rates, 47 percent, of any large U.S. city. Many neighborhoods with access to public transportation are seeing increases in property values, pushing middle to low income families out. The plan hopes to ensure that Houstonians have equitable access to affordable housing.

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