The city of Houston’s Housing and Community Development Department’s affordable housing program has suffered from lack of oversight and mismanagement for years, a recent Chronicle investigation found. The rules governing the long-standing program, which was meant to help low-income Houstonians become homeowners and improve neighborhoods, weren’t always followed and in many cases homes were sold to people who shouldn’t have qualified because they made too much money. Mike Morris, the Chronicle’s City Hall reporter, conducted the investigation and explains what went wrong and how the city intends to fix it.
Whole Foods Market's lower-priced 365 grocery concept debuted in Houston last month, filling a hole in an area long underserved by grocers – Independence Heights. Yet the opening has also spurred fears of displacement and gentrification. Retail reporter Paul Takahashi explains the tension and updates listeners on the latest Sears store closings.
The sale of the Kirby Mansion to a luxury car dealer has Houston preservationists working overtime to figure out a way to save the property. Now there are rumblings that the historic home could be relocated from its Midtown block. Nancy and Allyn discuss the latest updates about the Kirby Mansion, as well as plans for a separate project not far away: the W Hotel. The proposed hotel development, slated for a site next to downtown's George R. Brown Convention Center, could benefit from millions of dollars in tax incentives if the city approves it later this year. A veteran hotel consultant talks with Nancy and Allyn about what a W Hotel would mean for Houston and the controversial plan for incentives.
Houston is often cited as being one of the most affordable cities in the nation. But is it really? Irene Vazquez, a student and writer for Rice Design Alliance's OffCite, wrote an article this summer looking at income segregation and home prices in Houston. The takeaway: The city is divided into two parts – the arrow, which covers the historically wealthy parts of town, and the horseshoe, the rest of the city. Lumping the two together can lead to a false impression about housing and affordability. Vazquez talks with Nancy and Allyn about what she learned from her research. She also sheds light on what people from her generation think about home ownership.
Restaurants take up a whole lot of real estate in Houston, one of the nation’s most buzzed about food cities. Ryan Cortez, a Houston chef and drummer who recently competed on Fox reality show MasterChef, joins Nancy and Chronicle food editor Greg Morago to talk about the city’s best restaurant neighborhoods and the challenges of finding space in them.
Residents and community leaders are taking steps to help preserve the affordability and character of Houston’s Third Ward and neighborhoods surrounding it as new development threatens to change the area in a way that concerns some of the longtime residents. Joy Sewing, the Houston Chronicle’s fashion and beauty editor, lives in the area and is president of the Riverside Civic Association. One of the things that worries her is the number of letters and postcards she gets from investors wanting to buy her home. She spoke with Nancy and Allyn about her efforts to strengthen the community and keep it from becoming overrun with speculators and townhomes.
Some employees love working in an open workspace and are energized by the impromptu chats and collaboration that goes with it. Others wear headphones all day, a sign to their co-workers to stay away. Nancy and Allyn talk to Brian Malarkey of the Kirksey architecture firm about a recent study, which found that open offices may lead to less, not more, communication.
Last summer the Houston Chronicle's Managing Editor Vernon Loeb came on Looped In to share his observations about Montrose, the iconic and eclectic neighborhood he'd called home since moving to town almost four years earlier. Loeb recently took a new job in Washington D.C. But before he left, he again joined the Chronicle's Nancy Sarnoff and Allyn West, this time for a look back at some of the biggest news stories that happened under his editorial watch. From Hurricane Harvey to the Astrodome, each story reveals something important -- be it a shortcoming or an advantage -- about Houston real estate and the city's explosive growth.
The Astrodome has been named a state antiquities landmark. Houston has hosted a national historic preservation conference. Downtown towers are being converted into hotels and apartments. It seems Houston is starting to take preservation more seriously. But there are still more losses than wins when it comes to saving our old buildings. Nancy and Allyn continue their conversation on the Kirby Mansion and historic preservation with David Bush and Jim Parsons of Preservation Houston. (David speaks first!)
Nancy and Allyn sit down with Houston history buff and preservation advocate R. W. McKinney (aka “Mister McKinney”) to talk about Midtown’s Kirby Mansion, the latest historic building to be threatened by demolition.
Developer Steve Radom and landscape architect Cynthia Dehlavi join Nancy and Allyn to talk about Houston’s strip mall mentality and what makes a shopping center “cool.”
Randalls -- once the go-to store for grocery shopping in Houston -- has been edged out over the years by its competitors offering lower prices and wider selections. Paul Takahashi, who covers grocers for the Chronicle, talks with Nancy and Allyn about recent store closings. Real estate broker and retail expert Jason Baker also weighs on what Randalls has meant to Houston, the current power players, and how a desire for convenience is changing the grocery game.
More than five years ago, Houston-based architecture firm PBK invited FBI officials, police chiefs from area school districts and educational leaders to meet and discuss what has become one of the country's most urgent threats: school shootings. Now, the company -- a leader in K-12 design -- has hired a law enforcement veteran to further its efforts in designing secure facilities without detracting from the educational mission. Chief Alan Bragg and PBK partners Ian Powell and Dan Boggio join Nancy and Allyn to discuss what’s being done to keep schools safe.
Real estate investors rushed to buy flooded houses after Hurricane Harvey, buying many for dimes on the dollar and turning neighborhoods into rental enclaves. A few months ago, Chronicle investigative reporters David Hunn and Matt Dempsey set out to find out how many investors were out there, who they were and where they were buying. Their investigation was published last week. They join Nancy to explain how they did it and what they found.
Scenic Houston President Anne Culver talks with Nancy and Allyn about how Houston can become a more pedestrian-friendly city. They also talk Walk Scores, billboards and the best neighborhoods to stroll.
Rice University is spending $100 million to transform Midtown’s 1930s Sears department store into a high-tech home for startups. But as with any urban redevelopment, there's likely to be tension between the newcomers and the existing stakeholders who might not want to see the area change. Paul Takahashi reported on Rice’s plans for the Mitown area after interviewing the university's President David Leebron and taking an extensive tour of the old Sears, one of Houston's first buildings with air conditioning and escalators. He spoke to Nancy and Allyn about the project and what city and university leaders think it could become.
In her attempts to bring a communal-style pocket neighborhood to Acres Homes, Heidi Eagleton discovered another way she could build in the underserved area: affordable housing. But her homes don't fit the typical image of affordable. They have exposed beams, screened-in porches and fenced yards. They are designed to meet energy efficiency standards. Eagleton joins Nancy and Allyn to discuss her new homes and the challenges building affordable housing in Houston.
Whenever Houston finds itself in competition with another city, it’s usually about the food, the fashion or the attitudes of the people – and it’s usually Dallas that we’re defending ourselves against. Houston recently found itself fending off another big-city rival, but for a very different reason: a giant silver bean.
Nancy is joined by the Chronicle’s Allyn West and Lisa Gray, who go into it with a Chicago Tribune columnist who wrote a scathing piece on Houston and our newly installed Anish Kapoor “bean” sculpture. Plus, Looped In’s former co-host Erin Mulvaney brings her own hot take to the discussion.
Perhaps unlike any other time in history, immigrant labor is playing a critical role in getting Houston back on track, a theme highlighted in a new documentary called "Immigration's crossroad, rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey." Director Gregory Kallenberg and producer (and former Chronicle columnist) Loren Steffy discuss the film, which is part of a series of short documentaries that attempt to bridge the two sides of the immigration debate by framing the issues in a historical context and through personal stories.
Hurricane Harvey destroyed the lower portions of Buffalo Bayou Park, devastating the beloved dog park and causing the loss of some 400 trees. After hauling off 30,000 cubic yards of sediment -- at a cost of more than $1 million -- the Buffalo Bayou Partnership continues its costly efforts to repair what's become Houston's central park. President Anne Olson joins the Chronicle's Nancy Sarnoff and Allyn West to discuss the park's future and the long-term plan for the bayou's eastern stretch.
Ryan Walsh, one of the county officials guiding the redevelopment of the Astrodome, and local preservationist James Glassman join Nancy and Harris County reporter Mihir Zaveri to discuss the plans, the funding and the ethos of the project, which aims to transform the Houston’s most legendary landmark into what officials hope will be a coveted event space.
Nancy and Allyn talk to Chronicle writer Molly Glentzer about her story on dismantling the 18th century ballroom at La Colombe d’Or, the boutique hotel on Montrose Boulevard, to make way for a luxury residential tower.
Houston native and L.A.-based filmmaker Jon Schwartz talks about his 1987 documentary This is our home, it is not for sale. The film explores integration, real estate blockbusting and white flight in Riverside, a historic Houston neighborhood along Brays Bayou.
In its failed bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, Houston offered up three urban sites with tremendous potential: a vacant downtown skyscraper, a sprawling property along Buffalo Bayou and an aging department store in the center of urban life. Nancy and Allyn talk with Chronicle reporter Katherine Blunt about her recent story on the snub, the sites and the silver lining.
Nancy gets a look behind the curtain on an industry that’s playing a key role in Houston’s post-Hurricane Harvey real estate market: investing in flooded homes. She and her Chronicle colleague David Hunn talk to Brian Spitz, a local investor who’s bought hundreds of inundated properties, about the local investment ecosystem and how it influences the market.