New Rice report adds to the affordability question in Houston
A new report from Rice University’s Shell Center for Sustainability evaluates a missing component of the current affordability equation in Houston — high school performance and its impact on housing prices and subsequent location decisions. According to the report, for every one percentage point increase in high school graduation rates, housing value is predicted to increase by $7,945.
“The Sixth Houston Sustainability Indicators Report: Sustainable Communities and Public Education” focuses on education, one of the major priorities for the City of Houston, and was selected to complement Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s plan to develop Complete Communities in Houston. The report utilizes the comprehensive sustainability indicators from the Houston Sustainability Indicators project to make a robust attempt at characterizing the relative impact of Houston Independent School District (HISD) performance as a predictor of housing prices, when compared to many other factors.
The report also evaluates existing geographic boundaries, or super neighborhoods, to determine how communities can better participate in their development. According to the study, the results are critical to Houston policy makers who can use this procedure to objectively prioritize communities in terms of targets for public services and improvements.
“HISD’s current policy of relieving overcrowding by adjusting zoned attendance boundaries creates attendance boundaries that do not correspond with existing community boundaries,” said Lester King, the urban sustainability fellow with the Shell Center for Sustainability and lead author of this report. “Community leadership and neighborhood involvement operate at the level of our geographic communities, not at the level of the feeder patterns around our children’s schools.”
According to the report, there is no discernable reason why high school feeder patterns should not follow super neighborhood boundaries. Aligning feeder patterns with community boundaries allows for Houston’s communities to better identify with their community schools and participate in their development.
“Aligning feeder patterns would change the capacity in schools,” King said. “Relieving overcrowding is important, but having communities participate in the success of public schools should be a higher priority.”
The report concludes that the graduation rate explains 17 percent of the variance in housing value and that other demographic and socio-economic factors account for 73 percent through five indexes: wealth, ex-urban communities, African American, four-bedroom communities and industrial communities.
“In order to develop a stronger sense of community involvement and to foster ownership of k-12 schools as true community resources, it is important to align the zoned attendance boundaries with community and neighborhood boundaries where possible,” King said. “Community involvement is an indispensable goal which is in-line with HISD Board policy for school improvement.” The new report can be found on the Houston Sustainability Indicators (HSI) project website at www.HoustonCommunitySustainability.org.