Though it lost its bid to be the permanent capital of Texas, the city named after its bigger-than-life namesake, Sam Houston, has grown to be the largest city in the Lone Star State, with over 600 square miles of urban development within its city limits. As you’ll see when moving to Houston, the city has never stopped diversifying.
Roads are very, very busy here, and traffic can get congested quickly. Avoid moving to Houston during the busy morning and evening commute, and allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination.
Houston doesn’t issue moving permits, but local parking restrictions or curbside trash pickup can make parking at your new place difficult. Check with the Parking Management Division to see if any parking restrictions apply.
With a humid subtropical climate, Houston’s humidity level can be detrimental to anything you leave in storage. Make sure any storage space you use is well-ventilated, and if you’re storing very valuable items, look for one that is climate-controlled.
Moving to Houston means you can choose from a wide variety of interesting neighborhoods. There’s bohemian Montrose, artistic Houston Heights and Downtown, the city’s business and entertainment hub. You can also consider Midtown, close to universities and colleges; Denver Harbor/Port Houston, a predominantly blue-collar neighborhood; and Sugar Land, a nearby commuter community.
Cost of Living
Compared to the US average, the cost of living in Houston is 12.3 percent lower. In fact, the cost of living in Houston ranks lowest among any other metropolitan area in the country, making it clear that you get more bang for your buck here than in other American cities. For groceries, housing utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous goods and services, you pay much less than in other cities. Additionally, Houston’s taxes are over 10.5 percent lower than the US average.
The reason for all of this is very simple: Houston’s economy is built almost entirely on the energy business. A large portion of the workforce is employed in this sector or some supporting service, and when the rest of the country suffers due to rising oil prices, salaries in Houston go up and the local economy gets a boost, which benefits the entire city.
Houston’s infrastructure relies on freeways that are generally well-maintained. Two major routes loop around the city, while spokes leading into the center provide access to every neighborhood. Public transportation is passable within the city limits, but if you’re traveling outside of the city, you’ll need a vehicle.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time in traffic after moving to Houston. Though there’s an extensive freeway system, congestion is the fourth-worst in the country.
- Roads: The I-610, also known as “the Loop,” forms a loop around the city and provides access to the core neighborhoods in Houston. Beltway 8 and the Sam Houston Tollway form another loop outside of the first, providing access to the surrounding neighborhoods. An outer loop is still under construction.
- Railroads: Amtrak provides passenger rail transportation between Los Angeles and New Orleans with a stop in Houston in the north of Downtown.
- Public transportation: METRO operates light rail, buses and lift vans in the city. However, public transportation in Houston is not very reliable when it comes to connections with the suburbs, which is why so many people still drive here.
- Airports: Houston is served by two commercial airports: George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Ellington Airport is used by general aviation sectors, as well as NASA, the military and the government.
Though Houston is a large city, it generally has a lower unemployment rate than other cities of comparable size, which can prove advantageous during any job search. In fact, in December 2011, the unemployment rate here was 7.1 percent while the national average was 8.4 percent. You can look for Houston jobs in the city’s major economic sectors, which are mining and renewable energy sources, manufacturing, shipping, education and health services. However, you can also look for jobs in finance, biotech and high-tech, retail, and tourism and hospitality.
If you’re moving to Houston, you’ll probably want an idea of what to expect by way of local news outlets. Here is a brief rundown on some of the most popular newspaper publications in the city, followed by a listing of network TV affiliates to keep you up to date on local and national news.
The Houston Chronicle
The Houston Chronicle isn’t just the biggest newspaper in Houston, it’s the biggest newspaper in the whole state. For a place as big as Texas, that’s saying quite a bit. The Houston Chronicle, which has been in business since 1901, is published seven days a week. Its circulation hits between 350,000 and 375,000 Mondays through Saturday, but readership is almost tripled on Sundays, reaching more than 911,000 readers. With a reputation for containing no political bias in reporting, the Houston Chronicle is every news junkie’s go-to publication for all things news, sports, business, entertainment and lifestyle-related.
African-American News & Issues
With a circulation of over 400,000, the weekly newspaper African-American News & Issues is the most widely distributed free publication in Houston that caters directly to the African-American community. In publication since 1996, the newspaper reports on timely issues that impact one of Houston’s largest communities.
Semana Houston (which means “Houston Week”) is one of the city’s most widely read and distributed news publications for the large Latino community. With roots that date back to 1992, Semana Houston has an estimated weekly readership of over 115,000. The newspaper reports on a variety of newsworthy issues, including local and international news, sports and entertainment stories that are of interest to the Latino community in Houston.
Houston Progressive Voice
Published twice per month, the Houston Progressive Voice is the city of Houston’s primary source of news for the LGBT population. Along with its website, the bi-weekly newspaper covers a variety of news and entertainment stories relevant to the gay and lesbian population in Houston.
Covering local news and offering a diverse calendar of arts and entertainment events, the Houston Press is a free weekly newspaper that can be found on newsstands throughout the greater Houston metro area. With a circulation exceeding 80,000, the newspaper is one of the city’s most widely read publications dedicated primarily to the reporting of alternative news and entertainment.
Local TV News Channels
If you’re moving to Houston, program your TV remote for the following news stations and national affiliates:
Houston has a humid subtropical climate, due to warm air from Mexico’s deserts mingling with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. During springtime, this can cause supercell thunderstorms and even tornadoes, so pay attention to weather alerts after moving to Houston. Summer temperatures are usually above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but may feel warmer due to high humidity. In addition, summer afternoons often bring rain and thunderstorms.
Winter temperatures average about 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and snowfall is a rare occurrence, so if you don’t like the cold, moving to Houston is an excellent choice! As Houston’s former mayor, Louie Welch once said, “Houston has two seasons—summer and February!”
With one of the country’s largest public school districts, as well as some top-notch private schools, there’s plenty of choice for students of any age moving to Houston. These are some of the most notable educational institutions:
- Elementary Schools: T.H. Rogers Elementary School, West University Elementary and Alief Montessori Community School are some of the top-ranked elementary schools.
- High Schools: Three top-ranked high schools are Carnegie Vanguard High School, Debakey High School for Health Professionals and North Houston Early College High School.
- Higher Education: College students moving to Houston can choose from some great universities and colleges, including the University of Houston, Texas Southern University or Rice University, to name but a few. In addition, both the Houston Community College System and the Lone Star College System offer a variety of courses.
To find the most up-to-date information about moving to Houston, go to the City of Houston’s website.
- Parking: Check with the Parking Management Division to see if there are any parking restrictions surrounding your new home.
- Tolls: There are a number of toll roads in Houston and surrounding Harris County, with the Sam Houston Tollway that loops around the city being the longest. Others include the Sam Houston Tollway Northeast, Hardy Toll Road, Katy Managed Lanes, Westpark Tollway and Fort Bend Highway. Some tolls cannot be paid in cash, so you’ll need an EZ pass or some other form of electronic payment. Go to the Harris County Toll Road Authority for more information and to check rates.
- Voter Registration: After moving to Houston, you can register to vote by mailing in a voter registration form to the Harris County Tax Office. You can also register in person at a Tax Office, or at a number of state agencies, including any public library in Houston.
- Trash & Recycling: The city manages both trash and curbside recycling. Check the pick-up schedule for solid waste to see on which days your street is served. You can find information about Houston's recycling program on the city’s website.
- Driver’s Licenses: You’re required to apply for a TX driver’s license at an office of the Texas Department of Public Safety within 90 days of moving to Houston. A six-year license costs $25.
- Taxes: There’s a 6.25 percent or $90 new-resident sales tax on any vehicle you bring into the state of Texas. However, if you already paid sales tax or excise tax in another state, you’re exempt.
- Vehicle Registration: You must register your vehicle at the Harris County Tax Office within 30 days of moving to Houston. The cost for a passenger vehicle is $64.25. It costs $33 to transfer a title and registering a lien is free of charge.