County census data #4: Housing & households

By Jeremy Rhodes

The first wave of data releases from the 2020 US Census is here, and many of the demographic shifts that we’ve seen across the country and the state are mirrored in our Waco community. In this series of posts, I am presenting some of the demographic changes we see in McLennan County from 2010 to 2020. 

The first post presented numbers regarding general population growth and decline. The second post showed an overview of racial and ethnic changes in the county. The third post expanded on the racial/ethnic changes in McLennan County since 2010. In this post, we will look at some of the changes to the housing landscape in Waco since 2010.

This first map shows the number of housing units in each area, as well as the change in housing units since 2010. The orange areas saw a decline in total housing units, with darker shades indicating a larger decline. The green areas saw an increase in total housing units, with darker shades indicating a larger increase. The top number shows the total number of housing units in that area, while the bottom number shows the change in number of housing units since 2010.

Most of central Waco and north Waco saw little change in total number of housing units from 2010 to 2020. The largest growth in housing units was seen in China Spring, with an addition of 1131 housing units, and Hewitt, with an addition of 1,000 units. Only six census tracts saw declines in the number of housing units since 2010. One of the historic East Waco tracts (tract 15) saw the largest decline in housing units, with a loss of 141 households. Most of the county saw moderate to robust housing growth.

The second map is similar to the first. The coloring is the same, with green shades indicating growth in housing units since 2010, and orange shades indicating decline in housing units since 2010. The black number in each tract is different in this map; it displays the number of residents per household in that area. Most of the county has between two and three people per household. Notable exceptions include downtown Waco and historic East Waco, where there are fewer than two residents per housing unit.

There are two outlier tracts that should be explained. In the northwest of the map, you will see a tract with 17 people per household. That tract is the airport, and we should not think too much about housing and population data for that tract. The other outlier is the tract containing Baylor University, which has a “persons per household” of 149.6. Although the Census Bureau does not consider dorms to be housing units, I cannot be certain how they obtained such a high number while excluding dorms from consideration.

If you have any questions about this, or if you would like Jeremy to give an overview of these changes to your group, staff, or organization through Zoom or in person, please contact Jeremy Rhodes at [email protected].  

Jeremy Rhodes, Ph.D., is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Home buyers are feeling the squeeze

By Jeremy Rhodes

My family and I are trying to buy a house here in Waco. In case you haven’t heard, that’s hard to do right now. Luckily, we have some generous friends who are allowing us to crash at their place for a few weeks while we get things ironed out.

We have made an offer on seven houses. (I think?… My wife would know for sure.) For at least two of the houses, we know we were the highest bid, but we lost out to some cash offers. 

The recent decision of our city council to limit short-term rentals should help the supply of housing for sale, but the impact of that change might not be felt for a while. For now, we are left at the mercy of sellers who we can only hope will see some value in our offers and take mercy on a family trying to finance their home.

Increasing home prices can have ripple effects on rental prices, as well. As my wife and I consider the possibility that we may have to rent for a few months and try to ride out this real estate wave, we are realizing that the cost of renting is rising along with the cost of buying. In some cases, the cost of renting is as high as the cost of a mortgage, but without the benefit of building equity on an asset. 

I imagine this squeeze is being felt especially hard for first-time home buyers, especially those who are looking for low-cost homes to buy. About once or twice a week, I hear rumors of West-Coast investors paying cash to snatch up homes to flip, but I’m not sure how or whether those rumors can be verified. The current difficulty of our housing market has more to do with the current low supply of homes for sale than with a surplus of potential buyers.

So please sell me your house, but only if it’s a house I’ll like. We’re not currently in the market for houses we don’t like.

Jeremy Rhodes is director of research and community impact for Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

The ‘invisible homeless’ in Waco are losing again

By Jimmy Dorrell

With the previously rumored and publicly unannounced closing of the Oak Lodge Motel, based on a desire “to make our city better,” those who live on the edges are about to lose even more access to affordable housing and will likely move into worse conditions. While I realize it is hard to defend this old, challenging motel complex (and other substandard hotels) due to its history, petty drugs, and crime, at this time in Waco there are almost no other choices for housing for hundreds of these “invisible homeless,” including some families with children. Some of those tenants are members of Church Under the Bridge, who attend weekly.

Oak Lodge Motel

I know our city leaders and some community members care about the poor and may even acknowledge the growing lack of affordable housing in Waco for them. The lack of living wages at work in Waco contributes to their inability to rent housing. Most likely these discussions will not produce any viable answers for years that address the current and growing glut of options for Waco’s most vulnerable.

It is a crisis, not just a problem. It will only get worse for them in the months ahead. 

While Church Under the Bridge has recently initiated a new ministry to focus more on that very population, we also have few housing resources to help. Our first ministry goal is to build deeper relationships with the families and individuals and walk with them through their current plight, yet we are realistic to know there are fewer resources that really address the bigger issues of housing them in Waco. It is a community problem that demands increased attention and even interim answers.

I challenge the churches and caring community to make every effort at your disposal to save these and create new housing options before they are evicted onto our streets. I also encourage you to discourage the removal of these who will be displaced until each of them has adequate housing.

Mohandas Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest members.” That goes for cities, as well.

We commit to pray for our leaders and local churches as you struggle with these challenging issues and for the poor!

Here are some articles that may help highlight the challenge in our community:

“The People Staying and Living In America’s Hotels”     

“America’s Hidden Homeless”:

Jimmy Dorrell is pastor of Church Under the Bridge in Waco and founder of Mission Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Why should we care about housing and homelessness?

With this post Act Locally Waco introduces Phil York, Coordinator of Grants and Contracts at Waco Habitat for Humanity. A self-described “policy nerd,” Phil has agreed to a stint as ALW’s housing and homelessness policy blogger. Welcome aboard, Phil! We are looking forward to your insights on this crucial element in making Waco a great place to live for every person of every level of income!

Policy briefings, lobbyist meetings, and picket lines…this is the typical landscape we see and hear in the headlines of Washington. They all seem to be actions from a distant planet with unknown implications on our day-to-day lives. This blog series is designed to make federal housing and homelessness policy less alien and more accessible, and to explain what effect these important policies have on Waco, Texas.

But…why should we care?

york_phil2 (2)In graduate school, I had a professor who asked this question at the end of each student’s graduation thesis. Needless to say this is a question that is so fundamental that it feels like a punch to the gut after you are finished an important speech. But the question is worth asking with any social issue. Wacoans should care about housing and homelessness because of the social and economic impact these issues have in our community.

For example, consider the impact of homelessness on our children and youth. Homelessness is a growing problem among families, particularly families with children. If youth are subject to homelessness they are also subject to health hazards that are easily acquired by living on the streets such as communicable diseases . Also, children experiencing homelessness are four times more likely to show delayed development and twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children .

Sadly, Youth are a growing demographic among America’s homeless. Nationwide, homelessness among K-12 age students saw a 10 percent rise from 1,065,794 to 1,168,354 . According to the US Department of Education, the Lone Star state is third among the top 10 states with the number of homeless students. Texas accounts for 94,624 homeless enrolled students; this represents an 11% increase between 2011-2012 .

These children are our future workers and leaders. The current social impact is clear, and we would also be wise to consider the long term economic impact of a future workforce that has not been able to study in a safe environment, a future workforce that is vulnerable to weather and disease. These deprivations during childhood can have a lasting negative impact on a person’s ability to get the education necessary to find a good-paying job. This in turn has a negative impact on the economic health of the whole community.

In addition to this kind of long term social impact, the immediate economic impact of homelessness is clear. A 2007 video produced by the City of Waco shows that the cost per chronically homeless person in Waco is $39,000. Approximately 15% of homeless population is chronically, or persistently, homeless. This 15% of the homeless population uses 50% of homeless services. The total cost of homelessness to our community is estimated at more than $7.6 million. Shelters, emergency rooms, police and correctional facilities are among the tax-funded programs used. One possible approach to this challenge is Permanent Supportive Housing. This kind of housing approach could potentially cut the cost of helping these chronically homeless individuals. Once chronically homeless individuals are housed, this could free up resources to help reduce episodic homelessness.

Affordable housing and a thoughtful approach to homelessness issues will have an impact on the current and future health of Waco. Housing has a direct tie to education, health, and the economic prosperity of our community. We should care about housing because it is critical.

The stakes are high. Familiarity with policies that drive local programs can help us actively participate in the continued improvement of our community.

I look forward to learning with you. Regards, Phil York.


Two Generations of Home Ownership

By Gabriela Gatlin

Salome Ibañez walked into my office on January 28th and asked to buy our newly renovated house on N. 13th Street. On February 28th he sat down with Mike Stone at the title company, signed closing documents, and took the keys to his new home. Salome took a month to accomplish what most of my clients prepare for over several months or several years.

Salome is the son of a Waco Habitat homeowner on North 15th Street. The ease with which he bought his home is the fruition of the hope that those of us who work as housing advocates long to see come true. We hope that the children of homeowners are more likely to become homeowners themselves, making homeownership an achievement that produces generational stability and wealth for both families and communities.

Salome walked into my office already credit worthy, demonstrating a history of responsible behavior with loan repayment. He had a chosen a house with a sales price that was affordable for his monthly budget, reflecting his willingness to match aspirations to sustainability. Salome’s biggest “problem” was that he and his wife earned too much income to qualify for down payment assistance programs. But of course, Salome was prepared for this hurdle; he and his wife had enough savings to cover the down payment and closing costs on their own.

Throughout Near North Waco, houses built by Waco Habitat for Humanity and Waco Community Development stand side by side. Our two organizations share a dynamic partnership in promoting homeownership and revitalizing neighborhoods. And now there are two generations of our homeowners living a block away from each other, each in their own right making this neighborhood a great place to live!

This week’s ALW blog is by Gabriela Gatlin, Housing Counselor at Waco Community Development Corporation. It was first published in the Waco CDC newsletter. If you are interested in blogging occasionally for Act Locally Waco, please let me know.  Email [email protected]