This week, Unacast released a new white paper, Houston's billion dollar break up. The report discusses the impact COVID-19 had on the population and economy of Houston, TX in 2020.
Over the past 70 years, Houston's population grew by nearly 900%, becoming one of the largest cities in the US.
Today, it's the fourth most populous city in the country, behind New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which is was on track to surpass within the next few years.
That growth came to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit in early 2020. Houston's population dropped, as around 10,000 residents left for less densely populated areas. Many hopped over to surrounding counties; only 3.7% left the state of Texas.
Ten thousand doesn't sound like much, considering Houston's population is around 2.4 million. However, those 10,000 residents took three quarters of a billion dollars worth of income with them. That stung, and local businesses are still reeling.
The Media's Reaction
Many media outlets picked up on the story, all focusing on different aspects of the paper's findings. We've compiled a few of those, which you can find below.
Does Houston's urban exodus spell the end of its record-breaking growth spurt? Reuters asked the same question in its coverage of the report.
"The rush of people leaving urban areas for the suburbs because of the coronavirus may have ended one of the nation’s most remarkable streaks of urban growth, according to estimates from data firm Unacast..."
"The last time Harris County, Texas [i.e., all of Houston] saw a population decline was back in the mid-1980s, when oil prices had crashed 50% in a few weeks, and the booming county’s residency numbers, which include the city of Houston, dropped for three of the four years from 1985 to 1988."
"If work from home and internet commerce reshuffle where people live and spend the day, it could mean a more lengthy recovery for the economy as a whole as office buildings struggle to find new tenants, restaurants and shops that rely on their business shutter, and service workers see demand for their jobs move elsewhere."
The Houston Chronicle reported on the white paper from a slightly different angle, focusing on the impact population loss has had, and will continue to have, on rents and the real estate industry.
"It [Unacast] estimated Harris County saw a net outflow of10,000 residents, representing income of $740 million, to other counties in2020.... The trend could have implications for Harris County tax collections, real estate investment and the leasing markets."
"Igor Popov, chief economist at the rental website Apartment List, said falling rents in urban cores and rising rents in the suburbs is a trend playing out throughout the country. The premium renters were once willing to pay to live close to work, happy hours, museums and entertainment fell as social distancing closed offices and other establishments. However, he believes urban areas will rebound after the pandemic."
There's a bit of optimism shining through. Nicely done, Igor. With luck, others will adopt your positive perspective.
The Houston Chronicle is a paid membership site. But just in case you happen to be a paying member, you can find the article here »
How to Read the White Paper
Although tidbits from the media give you a glimpse into the paper's findings, you must read it in its entirety to understand the full story. Luckily, you're in the perfect place to do so. Simply access the white paper from our site and you can get the inside scoop on what's taking place in Houston.