Let’s talk about Where Black People Live in Houston. Years ago I created a neighborhood guide with the intended audience being fellow Houstonians or recent transplants. I never finished part two (my fault), but part one showed my favorite spots in some of the quintessential neighborhoods in Houston. Google searches are interesting particularly with my blog including the word “Black” in it. As such, black people who were looking to move to Houston found my blog when trying to find the best neighborhoods for Black families. So I started getting emails asking me “where should I live” and whew THE pressure!
I grew up here, but Houston is big and sometimes feels like a lot of little cities that happened to expand together like cookies that spread while baking. Plus where you live is so personal with each of us having our own sensibilities and preferences. Add to that I am not a realtor or any type of city expert. But one thing was clearly underlying this question, they asked me because they wanted to ensure they were in a neighborhood where their Blackness would not be a threat. Where they likely would not be the only Black family and where they could perhaps enjoy Black culture and/or Black owned businesses. And while I am no expert in a lot of things real estate related, I do understand that sentiment.
I have my opinions, most of them rooted in my desire to live in the city after growing up in Houston’s suburbs. Without having kids, the draw for good schools just doesn’t matter to me. SO I am trying to be fair with this list and share places that I personally would not live, but logically see the benefit of. There will be places that my research and unscientific surveys of my audience shows Black people love and are thriving.
Highways frame Houston into a circular form by creating soon to be three loops around the city. The first loop is 610, anything inside of that we call “the city.” This is where you will find historic neighborhoods and as the city has expanded, some of our pricier homes. Next is the Sam Houston Tollway, yep it costs to drive around that baby boy. In between the loop and the tollway are other desirable areas like the Galleria area. It gives you more of a suburban feel without being too far from the city. The final loop, which is still in the works is the grand parkway or 99. This highway is starting to connect Houston’s larger outer suburbs like Katy and Cypress. If you are out there, you are likely looking at an hour long commute to the city, but will get more bang for your buck in terms of home size.
It is also important to understand the demographics of Houston. It is now the most diverse city in this country and boasts a black population of about 22% while the US as a whole is about 14%. This city is also growing rapidly and has been projected to pass Chicago as the third largest city for sometime. People of color (primarily Black and Latinx) are driving this growth in the city. Like most urban areas though, there are certain spaces where different racial and ethnic groups cluster to create more homogenous neighborhoods. Here is some information on how Houston ranks in terms of segregation as well.
When I think of the “Black suburb” in Houston Missouri City aka MO city immediately comes to mind. It is a suburb with its own culture, its own theme song (Mo City Don by Z-Ro) and the home of many Houston celebrities (like Travis Scott). Census data estimates that Missouri City is about 40% Black with an average family income of over $83,000. It also neighbors Sugar Land which has a lower Black population, but offers Missouri City residents additional shopping and dining opportunities.
When I asked my audience where Black live in Houston, nobody mentioned Alief and I was surprised! In my experience pretty much every Black professional I know who grew up in a middle class household in Houston lived in Alief. Many have left moving further out or into the city, but that does not negate the experience they had growing up. Houston started annexing part of Alief, so some could argue that it’s not necessarily a “suburb”, but has some of the suburban benefits plus a really diverse community with strong Black and Asian influences.
Katy, a suburb west of Houston has had steady growth over the last 20 or so years. Next to Fulshear (a neighboring community), Katy saw the largest growth in Black population of any suburb between the 2010 and 2020 census (source). So despite my intial thoughts when I began writing this, Black folks are moving out to Katy in droves. Like many other Houston suburbs, the homes (a lot of bang for your buck), plus the schools are attractive (but can be problematic sometimes too FYI).
Okay so this is the area I grew up in. It was “diverse” back then, but leaned heavily on the majority. I was not going to include Cypress on my list of places, but my followers kept mentioning it so here we are! The major draws to Cypress are the master planned communities (old and new), schools within the neighborhood (kids can walk) and many of the Suburban trappings that people enjoy (shopping centers and large/nice grocery stores).
More than anything, the Cy-Fair school district continues to appeal to people looking for great schools. As a product of these schools, I will continue to sing their praises and can tell you I know many successful Black kids who came out of this district. However, be mindful that the Anti-CRT movement is moving through their school board.
As I wrote this I got to thinking about all of the Black people who moved north to Humble of the last few years and decided to include it as well. Of course it has many of the other suburban appeals, but it is also really close to Intercontinental Airport and a decent commute into downtown Houston.
A random anecdote got me looking at Richmond for this post. A friend noted that every young Nigerian that she knew had moved to Richmond once they married and started their families. I paused for a second and realized that I also knew quite a few Nigerians (second generation primarily) who had moved to Richmond as well. Checked the census data and it lined up that Richmond has had some growth in their Black population over the last few years. You can find more details about Richmond here because to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve ever been out there!
I left Houston for about ten years (college and law school) and in that time Pearland boomed. Growing up, the major suburbs I always heard about were Sugarland, the Woodlands and Katy. Pearland was a far out place that few people I knew lived. Well in those ten years, Pearland had something to say! During that time Pearland saw a 66% growth in their Black population.
It is an easy commute into the Houston Medical Center, one of the biggest employers for the area, plus not too far from downtown. With the expansion of 288 including the tollway, the commute into the city is also easier. There is also a large neighborhood called City Park which is just outside of 610, but before Pearland so it gets the best of both worlds.
Best City Neighborhoods
Often referred to as the Historic Third Ward, this neighborhood holds a special place in the hearts of many Black Houstionains. Some areas in Third Ward like Riverside Terrace were originally Jewish communities, as Jews were blocked from wealthy areas like River Oaks. Eventually it became an African American community and the site of many of Civil Rights movement activities in Houston. Here you will also find Emancipation Park, the land purchased by freed people to celebrate Juneteenth following their emancipation. Oh and did I mention it’s home to some of Houston’s most famous names, Beyonce, Solange, Debbie Allen AND Phylicia Rashad just to name a few. This is a short synopsis, but the history is strong in this area.
Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a Black professional that does not frequent Third Ward for their plethora of Black owned bars ,restaurants and businesses. What you will also see is a neighborhood that is rapidly changing. The row houses are being replaced by large expensive townhouses. And the area that once was majority Black (71% Black in 2010) is now 45% Black.
Often grouped in with the “Greater Heights” the rich history of this community deserves specific attention. Incorporated in 1915, Independence Heights was Texas’ first city incorporated by Black people. The history of which is memorialized on the side of the Whole Foods off of 610 in a beautiful mural. The historic community has been through a lot though, ripped apart by a highway expansion that came right through the neighborhood and the rapid gentrification as Houstonians clamor to “the Heights.”
Sunnyside/Medical Center South
Here is another majority Black neighborhood that is undergoing some changes and redevelopment. Known to locals as Sunnyside, some smart person (or maybe shady take your pick) has rebranded this area as Medical Center South highlighting their proximity to the Texas Medical Center. It is the largest medical center in the world, home to several medical schools and the famed MD Anderson. Being close to the Medical Center is definitely appealing and it is also close to NRG where the Texans play and the Houston Rodeo is held.
There are some streets in Sunnyside that look just like a Katy suburban street with row upon row of new builds. They are continuing to build more and the prices are rising quickly! I have a few friends who purchased brand new homes in this area a few years ago and they continue to sing the praises of the neighborhood.
Fifth Ward is another historically Black area that is booming with new developments and new builds. This is appealing to a diverse group of upwardly mobile young people looking to move in closer. But I would be remiss if I did not note that this has of course led to gentrification and changing demographics in this community plus environmental racism continues to impact this area.
There is also a HUGE development starting in this area. It will be called East River because you know they always got rename/rebrand areas. While some people are excited about the new development in this area, others worry that it will push out residents and remove the culture of the community (read more here).
While technically not “inside the loop” the Galleria still remains one of the most sought out neighborhoods in Houston. The homes in this area and neighboring communities like River Oaks are expensive, but you can still find some reasonably priced rentals and older townhomes. The biggest appeal though are the happenings in the area from restaurants and bars, plus the Galleria mall (one of the largest malls in the country). It’s close to everything else like downtown, but the big drawback right now is the increased traffic due to construction on the roadways near the Galleria.
I am adding midtown here partly because I feel like some reclaiming needs to happen over there as well. Part of the area that we call Midtown is actually “Freedmen’s Town” or rather the land that freed people flocked to after they were emancipated. We celebrate that here with Juneteenth. Some of this history is being erased with the large expensive townhouses popping up on every block, but when you drive through this area you will still see historical markers which denote the efforts of Houston’s freedmens population.
Midtown is also super close to downtown and generally where tons of bars and restaurants are. A few years back this area seemed to be heavily populated by one demographic, but with the recent expansion of Black owned bars in the area (Lost and Found and Amhale), you will see a bit more color.
Other Helpful Posts
Realtors I Know
Sharing a few Black realtors that I know and have worked with. Will update as I encounter more, but if you are looking for realtors start here.
For all of these neighborhoods, please do your research on schools, safety, taxes and other important information. By including these neighborhoods I am not attesting that any of them are perfect, but rather highlighting their history and the draw for Black Houstonians. By that same token, neighborhoods that are not included on here are not bad. They just did not stand out based on my own experiences, research and surveying my audience. All in all, Houston is a great city and there are positives in just about any area that you decide to live.
If you have thoughts and opinions please be sure to share them in the comments!