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Houston’s Montgomery County Still Has Room To Grow, But Affordability Is Key

Caldwell Cos.’ Peter Barnhart, Howard Hughes Corp.’s Jim Carman, Bold Fox Development's Alex Kamkar, Signorelli Co.’s Jeff Dewese and Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough at Bisnow's The State of Montgomery County event on Aug. 19, 2021.

Montgomery County’s popularity has been soaring over the past decade. Located 40 miles north of Downtown Houston, the county had 620,443 residents in 2020, according to last year’s census — a population increase of 36.1% from 2010, making it one of the fastest-growing counties in the country.

Some areas of Montgomery County, such as Howard Hughes Corp.’s master-planned community The Woodlands, have already been built out. But there are other areas of the county that remain ripe for development, according to Signorelli Co. Senior Vice President Jeff Dewese.

Speaking at Bisnow’s The State of Montgomery County event on Aug. 19, Dewese said that the eastern part of the county is poised for significant growth. He pointed to Granger Pines, Signorelli Co.’s 460-acre master-planned community in the area, where the firm has seen a major rise in sales of single-family homes

Dewese said that the eastern part of Montgomery County is going to see plenty of new development in the coming years, because of land affordability and availability. The ongoing expansion of two other roads — Texas State Highway 242 and the Grand Parkway — will also help fuel that future.

“We all know mobility is a key factor as far as determining the viability of a project and whether or not it will work. East [Montgomery] County is where we're seeing a tremendous amount of growth right now,” Dewese said. 

To help encourage that growth, Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said that the county has been working to revise its Major Thoroughfare Plan, which was last updated in 2016. That plan will provide updated guidance regarding roads in the county, as well as a prioritized list of recommendations for future improvements.

Keough noted that Montgomery County has just finished going through a feedback and revision process with stakeholders and that the county will soon start moving forward on the plan. 

“The infrastructure and development that [will follow] this countywide mobility plan will be a tremendous thing to attract people here,” Keough said.

Montgomery County has another strategy for attracting people to the area: keeping property taxes from rising. Keough said that for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the county will pass a no-new-revenue tax rate, which allows property taxes to remain the same as the last fiscal year. It’s the third year in a row that the county has moved to keep property taxes the same. 

“If that doesn't attract people here, then I don't know what does. Because everywhere else I look, taxes are going up,” Keough said.

Elevation Land Solutions' Jon Unterreiner, Johnson Development Corp.’s Bob Douglas and Caldwell Cos.’ Peter Barnhart at Bisnow's The State of Montgomery County event on Aug. 19, 2021.

Single-family home sales in Montgomery County totaled 12,962 in 2020, up 19% from 2019 and 27.1% from 2018, according to Houston Association of Realtors data. Year to date, 9,595 single-family homes have been sold in the county.

Johnson Development Corp. Senior Vice President Bob Douglas said that in 2020, the firm had more single-family home sales than any other year. That interest has continued into 2021, with the firm’s Woodforest master-planned community in Montgomery County recording 265 single-family home sales in the first half of 2021 — an increase of 43% from the same period in 2020, according to a midyear report by RCLCO.

Amid the rapid growth, Dewese said developers need to start focusing more on affordable single-family housing, as rising prices have made it harder for people to enter the market. The increasing cost of labor and construction material price hikes contributed to the rise. 

Average single-family home prices in Montgomery County have jumped significantly over the past couple of years. So far in 2021, single-family home prices have averaged $396,010 — an increase of 14.8% from the same period in 2020, 20.8% from 2019 and 25.4% from 2018, HAR data shows.

“Affordability is definitely the main thing, making sure that the price of owning a home doesn't start to snowball more than it already [has], especially the disparity between how much people are making and how much a new home costs," Dewese said. "That gap can't keep getting larger. We really need to stop it from growing."