Everything's bigger in Texas. Even tiny homes. Texas is the top market in the nation for a type of tiny home known as a park model RV, and developers are building communities specifically for these dwellings outside of Houston.
Tony Buzbee, who's headed to a runoff Saturday in the 2019 race for Houston mayor, sat down with Nancy Sarnoff and Chronicle City Hall reporter Jasper Scherer to talk about his rise from small-town kid to millionaire lawyer and mayoral hopeful. This a one of two episodes featuring the candidates for mayor.
Mayor Sylvester Turner decided what he wanted his future to look like after watching the Kennedy/Nixon debate in 1960. That determination propelled him through school, where he graduated as valedictorian, all the way through Harvard Law, which was not his first choice. Turner sat down with Nancy Sarnoff and Chronicle City Hall reporter Jasper Scherer to reflect on his life in politics and the struggles he faced along the way. This is one of two episodes featuring the candidates for mayor.
NAR’s new policy on pocket listings is expected to result in a more transparent housing market, but there are loopholes, Nancy and Rebecca explain. They also talk about a recent luxury real estate event where agents learned about condo amenities for the ultra-rich.
For a long time, the phrase "man camp" evoked images of tents and mobile homes, but many have received a makeover. Large energy companies clamoring for safe housing — where their employees can get food and rest without any of the late-night carousing that can lead to trouble in the oil fields the next morning — has led companies like The Woodlands-based Target Hospitality to specialize in temporary housing. Perks include pools, basketball courts, fresh-squeezed orange juice and wood-fired pizzas.
Matt Zeve delivers a lot of bad news as deputy executive director of the Harris County Flood Control District. In the coming years, he'll be delivering a lot more. Potentially thousands of Harris County homeowners have fences, sheds and even swimming pools that encroach onto land the district owns or has the right to access. With the district now embarking on hundreds of flood mitigation projects, Zeve and his staff have started enforcing the encroachments. Nancy and Rebecca talk to Zeve about how the enforcement process works and what can happen when a property owner doesn’t comply.
After Harvey came the crisis investors, who bought hundreds of homes to flip. In places, they snapped up entire blocks. What do those communities look like two years later? Vacant and abandoned homes, as well as impromptu rentals, dot the landscape. Real estate agent Ace Tejada and home appraiser Mike Taylor take Looped In on a tour.
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In Independence Heights, developers are tearing down the original bungalows and replacing them with skinny townhomes with six-foot fences. Whole Foods, often a harbinger of gentrification, has opened a store there. Like in other neighborhoods under a similar threat, there's been a growing movement toward preserving what's left -- even if it's just memories. The Chronicle's Sarah Smith joins Nancy and Rebecca to talk about her recent reporting on the community and what residents are doing to retain its historical character.
Late billionaire George Mitchell was a Galveston-born wildcatter who became widely known for being the father of the modern process of fracking. Yet as a young executive, Mitchell became fixated with the idea of creating a healthy, sustainable community at a time when many American cities were experiencing urban decay. Author and former Chronicle Business Columnist Loren Steffy explores Mitchell's paradoxical life in a new book titled “George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet.” He joins Nancy to talk about the legendary Houstonian.
The number of craft breweries in Houston has grown by more than 250 percent since 2013 when there were only 18. The industry explosion (there are now 64) helped pave the way for new legislation that allows breweries to sell beer to go. Beer aficionado Ronnie Crocker and Chronicle business reporter Paul Takahashi join Nancy to talk about what the new law means for Houston's brewers and how the rise of craft breweries has come at the expense of the home brew market and the small retailers that cater to it.
A ceremony celebrating the life of the late Ed Wulfe revealed a different side to the gregarious real estate developer and civic leader.
For almost two hours, family members and friends, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner shared stories highlighting Wulfe's civic involvement and work ethic. His grandchildren told of his affinity for inspirational sayings and practical jokes. All their stories elicited more laughter than tears.
After attending the service, Nancy recounts some of the memorable moments.
New lawsuits challenging how real estate commissions are structured could lead to a number of possible outcomes, including changes in how much home sellers pay in fees and how agents who represent buyers are compensated. Plaintiffs in the case want to see more transparency in the real estate transaction. The defendants, including the National Association of Realtors, warn of potential dangers to the consumer if the system is drastically altered. The Chronicle's Rebecca Schuetz recently spoke on a panel with NAR's legal counsel and a lawyer/real estate broker from Washington at the annual Inman Connect conference. On the newest episode of Looped In, Schuetz discusses potential outcomes should the case be settled or even go to trial.
In a fancy white tent in the parking lot of the former Sears department store in Midtown, officials from the city, county and Rice University hosted a groundbreaking ceremony and press conference for the new Ion innovation hub.
Across the street, Rice students held a press conference of their own. Worried about gentrification and a host of other issues, they stood outside with a microphone and a speaker urging Rice to be a force for good in the neighborhood.
Nancy and Chronicle technology reporter Andrea Leinfelder recap the events.
L.A.-based Architect James Richards was living in Houston in 2015 when he heard the Astrodome was going to be open to the public for a 50th anniversary celebration. He figured it would draw a small crowd of nerdy architect and engineer types, so he decided to go. That experience was the inspiration for what Richards and his collaborator, Ben Olschner, have spent the past several years on: a proposal to turn the dome into an active urban park. Their project would strip the exterior skin off the domed structure, exposing the steel beneath it. It would be programmed with activities and eventually have a two-mile spiral track that gradually slopes from the ground level to the top of the dome. On the newest episode of Looped In, Richards describes his vision and how he thinks A-Dome Park could become a reality one day.
Is it “Montrose” or “the Montrose?” What’s “the 44?” And where in the world are the falls in Cypress? On the newest episode of Looped In, we explore the origins Houston neighborhoods names and highlight examples of real estate developments that have appropriated the names of their fancier, hipper neighbors. (with James Glassman, the “Houstorian”)
A mile from Houston’s bustling business district, the historic Glenwood Cemetery is a respite from the bars, townhomes and apartment buildings that surround it. With gently rolling hills, wildlife and all manner of vegetation, the 19th century park-style cemetery holds as much Houston history as it does beauty. Looped In hits the road again to tour the property with Dick Ambrus, its longtime executive director, and Jim Parsons of Preservation Houston.
A lawsuit filed in Illinois earlier this year was the latest attempt to upend the current system of how real estate commissions are structured. The case argues that if not for rules put in place by the National Association of Realtors, consumers would pay far less in commissions and that the system would look more like it does in the United Kingdom, where listing agents earn a much smaller commission and buyers’ agents are rare.
TMC3, a biomedical research campus planned for 37 acres between Old Spanish Trail and Brays Bayou, aims to take Houston’s powerhouse medical center in a bold, new direction. Plans call for the land to house medical and commercial space, a hotel, apartments and a collection of research facilities that could amount to more than $1 billion worth of development and 5 million square feet of space. Bill McKeon, Chief Executive of the Texas Medical Center, discusses how the project could introduce a standard of collaboration and architecture the TMC has never before seen.
Ralph Bivins has been covering the real estate market in Houston since the late 1980s when he started as a reporter with the Houston Chronicle. He now runs Realty News Report and has just published his first book: "Houston 2020: America's Boom Town - An extreme close up." He talks to Nancy about the projects and personalities that shaped the city's built environment and the challenges that stand to hold it back.
Looped In collaborator Allyn West recently left the Chronicle for a new job. But before going, he spent some time in the podcast studio to talk about his favorite -- and least favorite -- things about Houston. In an extended lightning round, Nancy and Lisa Gray, the editor and writer who recruited Allyn to the Chronicle, peppered their departing colleague with questions about the city’s architecture, streets, playgrounds and much more. Their conversation revealed some of Houston's little known gems, from real estate to writers.
For 12 years, Larry Albert, a.k.a. Gus Allen, published Swamplot, the news and gossip website that highlighted the absurdities of Houston's homes, gas stations, streets, parks, buildings and everything in between. On March 7, the site stopped publishing. "Swamplot was a side project that kind of got out of hand," said Albert, who joins Nancy and Allyn (a former Swamplot editor) to talk about why he started the site, how it evolved and which posts resonated with readers the most.
There are more than 100 opportunity zones throughout Harris County, and At-Large City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards has been meeting with residents to explain how this federal program works and how it stands to affect investment and development in these areas. The program is expected to be a boon to investors, but Edwards worries that a lack of planning on the front end could lead to unintended consequences. She joins Nancy and Rebecca to talk about how the city can help influence investment and development in opportunity zones in a way that benefits all stakeholders.
For the first time in his 40-year legal career John Ransom, has been getting cold calls from people with technical tax questions. Specifically, they're asking about Opportunity Zones, a program created in the 2017 tax overhaul to spur economic development in low-income neighborhoods while offering investors potentially large tax breaks. John Ransom, a partner and tax specialist with the Jackson Walker law firm, joins Nancy and Rebecca to talk about how Opportunity Zones could boost real estate values and improve struggling neighborhoods. Though there may be unexpected consequences, as well.
One of the barriers to building affordable housing often comes in the form of NIMBYism. Take the recent project proposed on Columbia Street in the Heights. The neighbors got wind of the proposal, swiftly launched a campaign to oppose it, and ultimately the developer walked away. It isn't always this way and it shouldn't be, said Joy Horak-Brown, president and CEO of New Hope Housing, a nonprofit developer that builds and runs housing and support services for low-income individuals. Horak-Brown joins Nancy and Allyn to dispel some of the myths about affordable housing and discuss how such developments can actually improve a neighborhood.
Nancy and Allyn talk to Rice Management Co.’s Alan Arnold about plans for the former Sears building in Midtown. The property, now called The Ion, is being redeveloped as part of Rice’s broader plan to create an innovation district on 16 acres