THE SKYLINE – Breaking News Bulletin!!! Houston is growing!!! This is about as breaking as all the other unimportant BNBs we get on our local TV news shows. “Lost dog is found.” “Summer is hot.” But, as usual, I have discovered some interesting items that may make you rich. For example, the average Houstonian has a 1-hour round commute and works an average of 41.2 hours per week. The average Houstonian spends nearly $12,000 per year on transportation and nearly $7,300 a year on food. (Do you spend almost twice as much on transportation as you do on eating? Then your priorities are all messed up.) Residents also have to deal with over 80 days where the average temperature is 90 degrees or higher, not to mention the humidity. Houston is the only place where you can tie a knot in a Frito.
More stats to see how you stack up. The average Houstonian is 33 years old. This is a younger age than for many other cities because of our vast number of young immigrants. The average Houstonian earns an annual salary of $48,260, a household income of $57,426 and lives in a house priced at $177,000. Some 30 percent of us have a college degree or higher, while more than 10 percent have a graduate degree or higher. Are you average? Now, statisticians, numbers crunchers and such don’t just consider the City of Houston (or any other large city) when counting heads and other stuff because Bellaire, Conroe, Bunker Hill and Pasadena are members of one big happy family. So these bean counters have created the Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSA – Harris and its eight surrounding counties. In the 2010 U.S. Census, this MSA had 5,920,416 inhabitants, but people keep on a-coming. The current population is estimated to be 6,490,180, which is an increase of 9 percent, about twice the national average. By 2040, experts predict the population will be about 10 million.
Total households in this MSA: 2,046,337. Average income: $74,022. Households with incomes over $100,000: 30 percent, which means those wage slaves in surrounding cities and counties make a lot more money than those inside the city limits. Incidentally, we are getting all of this info from an international real estate firm, Jones Lang LaSalle, where one of my sons, according to his mother, gives advice to the Trump Group, the Vatican and is generally indispensable. In turn, JLL got some info from the Greater Houston Partnership.
You know, pilgrim, that when the Mafia transferred you here, you probably got a hidden pay raise, because the cost of living in H-Town is lower than the national average. Says the report: “Houston is able to attract and retain employees thanks to one of the lowest major metros cost of living.” Actually, only five other cities are cheaper: In ascending order, Columbus, Tampa, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Highest cost of living is northern New Jersey followed by Washington, D.C. and Seattle. Ah, but your company is doing pretty well, too, being here. (55 Fortune 1000 Companies call Houston home.) “Like Dallas and Austin, Houston’s low cost of business and low office rents allow companies to focus on core business.” One reason for low office rents is that office vacancy is now almost 21 percent. The worst is the Greenway Plaza area where it’s 48 percent, but Katy Freeway West and the Central Business District account for over one-third of all subleases on the market. We’re not called Space City for nothing. We’ve got lots of empty space.
As for job percentage growth, Houston is falling behind. Dallas’s is 3.5, Austin’s is 2.7, San Antonio’s is 2.2 and Houston brings up the rear with 0.6. Where are the jobs here? Houstonians like to say they hate big government, federal regulations and Washington messing in our affairs, but they were perfectly willing to let the federal government pay for the Houston Ship Channel, the Johnson Space Center, the Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control work and a goodly chunk of the budget at the Texas Medical Center. So it may be hypocritical, but no surprise, that the fastest-growing sector for jobs in Houston is government. Second is leisure and hospitality, i.e. bartenders and food tasters, then health care. These trends should continue because forecasts for the greatest job growth next year are health care and leisure and hospitality. Government is third. (You will not be surprised to learn that employment growth here is directly reflected by the price of oil.) In a recent 12-month period, more than 26,588 multi-family units — I think they mean apartments — were “delivered” as we slumlords say, but only 6,762 units were “absorbed.” Occupancy rate is 88.2 percent. Experts say 2018 looks about the same, so this is a good time to negotiate cheaper digs.
All these empty offices and apartments are because investors from foreign places like Germany, Japan and New York City hear about the oil boom in Houston and rush here to sink their money in the ever-booming oil biz, except that Houstonians know every oil boom is followed by an oil bust. That’s their problem, but you can take advantage of their greed and stupidity, if you get my drift. Hehehe. On the other hand, remember that every one of our busts is followed by yet another boom. This brings us to what you may have been thinking all this time: “What’s in it for me?” Let’s look over these statistics again. Obviously, all these newcomers need a place to live, so put your house up for sale to the highest bidder, then buy another house and sell it. Lease a bunch of empty office buildings on long-term contracts. By 2025, when oil hits $150 a barrel, you can sub-lease them for a fortune. Buy land, any land. Your grandchildren will thank you. Find a job getting people jobs in the government. Learn how to mix a martini. That’s breaking news.
Ashby buys at email@example.com