HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – Traffic congestion is the considered the top problem facing Houston, according to the annual Kinder Houston Area Survey, which is conducted by Kinder Institute – a think tank at Rice University.
Each year, the Kinder team conducts intensive interviews with more than 46,000 Houston area residents about life experiences, attitudes and beliefs.
Houston’s changing fortunes are reflected in the open-ended question that begins each survey interview, asking,
“What would you say is the biggest problem facing people in Houston today? Since 2015, traffic congestion has been tagged as the biggest problem by pluralities of 28, 29, 24, and 25 percent. This year, the proportion grew to 36 percent, with crime at 15 percent, the economy at 11 percent, down from 16 percent in 2018.
The survey also revealed concentrated poverty has become a central challenge impacting children’s ability to succeed.
While those surveyed shared a positive outlook on job opportunities, 39 percent of responders said they could not come up with $400 in an emergency. This number is close to the national average reported by the Federal Reserve Board. In the city that is home to the world’s largest medical center, 25% of survey respondents lacked health insurance, 31% reported household income of less than $37,500, 35% said they had problems paying for housing and 33% had difficulty buying groceries.
This year’s study considered 28 school districts and found that of the 74,396 students enrolled in eighth grade in 2006, only 75 percent graduated.
“One in four did not graduate,” says Dr. Stephen Klineberg, founder of the Rice Kinder Institute for Urban Research.
The survey was discussed at a recently luncheon at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Houston.
“This recognition of the importance of education could be related to the change in opinion on the need for additional funding for public schools,” says Klineberg. Fifty-six percent of respondents in last year’s survey said more funding was needed for public schools; in 1994, 54% said the schools had enough money to provide a good education. Less than half of the respondents in 2018 – 42% — said the schools have enough money, if used wisely, to provide a quality education.
A significant award was presented at the Kinder luncheon.
Jeffrey C. Hines, president and CEO of Hines, received the Stephen Klineberg Award for making a lasting positive impact on Houston. He accepted the award as a tribute to his father, Gerald Hines, who began the global company in a one-room office in 1957. Hines now has buildings in 214 cities in 24 countries, with 13 projects in the works in Houston, totaling 5.2 million SF.
“Houston is one of the hottest markets because of its diversity – this is a characteristic we are seeing in a very few of the other cities that are growing at the rate that Houston is,” said Jeffrey Hines.
Hines also noted an evolution in the corporate tenants that occupy the developer’s towers in downtown Houston. In 1971, when Hines built One Shell Plaza, followed by their opening of Pennzoil Place in 1975, the Hines roster of tenants reflected a square footage leased almost entirely to oil and gas companies. At Hines’ new 609 Main building, only six percent of the tenants are in the oil and gas industry.