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Photo courtesy of Dolce Midtown Apartments

Apartment rent keeps going up in Texas, and in Houston the increase is nearly 11 percent more than last year, making it increasingly difficult to afford living in the city. That’s according to a new national rent report from online rental marketplace Zumper.

Despite rent increases showing a small slowdown month-over-month, overall prices are still on the high side from the previous year. For example, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Houston is $1,650 now, in March of 2023, which is a .60 percent increase from the previous month, but a nearly 11 percent increase from 2022 at 10.7 percent. The average rent for a one-bedroom is $1,350, which is a mere 3.1 percent increase month-over-month, but also a whopping 10.7 percent increase from last year.

The report looked at rental data from more than one million active listings in the top 100 cities in the United States to determine the rankings. Zumper ranked Houston the No. 51 most expensive rental market across the nation in February of 2023, up one place from the last report.

The report attributes these recent rental increase trends to the nation's rising inflation rate and unpredictable economy. Though unemployment is low (less than 3.4 percent), potential homebuyers are being sidelined with increasing interest rates. This is causing more competition among renters all over the country.

“Many markets continue to either normalize or correct following the steep increases in rent seen in 2021 [and 2022] in the zero interest rate [and] QE environment we went through,” said Zumper CEO Anthemos Georgiades in the report. “With interest rates expected to rise further in 2023, we anticipate continued deceleration in rent rises as new household formation freezes or is at least postponed.”

Just four places down the list from Houston is Fort Worth, coming in as the No. 55 most expensive rental market, which is a five-place increase from a previous report. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased over the last month, at $1,300, and is still 7.4 percent higher than it was last year. Two-bedroom apartments saw a much smaller year-over-year increase at 3.2 percent, with the average rent price at $1,600.

Five cities in the DFW metro area also made the list, as well as Austin (No. 25) and El Paso (No. 95). Most notably, Irving (No. 34) is experiencing a nearly 15 percent year-over-year rent increase for both one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The nine total Texas cities that made the list include:

  • No. 25 – Austin
  • No. 34 – Irving
  • No. 36 – Dallas
  • No. 40 – Plano
  • No. 51 – Houston
  • No. 55 – Fort Worth
  • No. 66 – San Antonio
  • No. 67 – Arlington
  • No. 95 – El Paso

The full data from Zumper’s National Rent Report can be found at zumper.com.

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Eat a delectable dessert from this sweet Houston cafe and donate to help kids

Crepes for a Cause

This summer, Coco Crepes & Coffee wants you to indulge for a great cause.

During the entire month of June, the popular creperie/neighborhood cafe will donate a portion of its sales from the Banana Split Crepe to Texas Children’s Hospital. Eat gelato to help children? Okay!

This sweet move is in response to International Children's Day on June 1. Being a noted family-friendly eatery, Coco Crepes & Coffee decided that one day simply wasn't enough, so it's helping future generations for the entire month.

Ready for details on the featured crepe? It boasts chocolate sauce-covered banana slices nestled inside a sweet crepe, all drizzled with vanilla, chocolate, and caramel sauces, and then finished off with your favorite flavor of gelato.

But there's no rule that says you can't sample the rest of the menu while you're there. Take your pick from a wide range of dishes that includes sweet and savory crepes, gourmet coffee drinks, salads, paninis, waffles, and smoothies.

Special for summer is the dragonfruit smoothie, a mouthwatering mix of dragonfruit, banana, and mango.

All locations, including the newest one in the Greenway/Upper Kirby area which is set to open in mid-June, are participating in the featured crepe give-back.

So get ready to satisfy your sweet tooth this June while eating for a bigger cause.

Spicy Sichuan hot chicken sandwich restaurant is a go in buzzy Heights-area food hall

THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!

The man behind a popular burger joint has added spicy chicken sandwiches to his repertoire. Chef Sunny Vohra has opened Thunderbirds HTX inside Railway Heights Market, the food hall and shopping plaza near the Heights.

Vohra, an L.A. transplant whose Houston resume includes time at Indian fine dining restaurant Kiran, first made a splash with Margaux’s Oyster Bar in Bravery Chef Hall and smash burger restaurant Peaky Grinders at Railway Heights. Having recently parted ways with former business partner Choey Dang, Vohra switched Peaky Grinders to the Meat + Cheese Project — a new concept built around smash burgers and cheesesteaks — and opened Thunderbirds.

For her part, Dang will open a new location of Peaky Grinders in the upcoming Midtown location of the Conservatory food hall and maintains ownership of Margaux’s, Vohra tells CultureMap.

Turning to Thunderbirds, the new restaurant serves Sichuan hot chicken. Similar in approach to Nashville hot chicken but made with a different blend of spices, Vohra explains that each chicken piece gets marinated in both a spice paste and a spice oil that’s infused with Korean chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and other ingredients. After cooking, it’s dusted with a power made from Sichuan peppercorns and, for those who really want to feel the burn, scorpion chiles.

Chef Vohra says that Daybird, a chicken concept founded by Top Chef season 12 winner Mei Lin, as well as traditional Sichuan restaurants Lao Sze Chuan and Chongping Chicken influenced his direction. Like the Meat + Cheese Project, Thunderbirds serves halal meat.

"I have always been fascinated by the complexities of Sichuan cuisine and its symphony of flavors," Vohra said in a statement. "We wanted to create a unique and unforgettable taste by combining the essence of Sichuan with the classic Nashville hot chicken sandwich. The result is a flavor-packed fusion that challenges taste buds and leaves customers wanting more."

The menu includes chicken sandwiches, chicken sliders, chicken wings, and fries that are topped with fried chicken and sauce. Calamansi lemonade helps ease the burn.

Railway Heights Market has seen significant turnover since it opened in 2021. Of its opening vendors, only Mykuna, a South American concept from chef David Guerrero, remains open. In addition to Thunderbirds, other newcomers include Meshiko, Mexican-influenced sushi restaurant; Mediterranean concept Z Pita; and El Comal Taco Eatery.

Breathtaking Hill Country hideaway is lone Texas star on Vrbo's top 10 vacation homes in the U.S.

RIVERFRONT OASIS

A magnificently hidden home located just an hour away from Austin has been chosen as one of Vrbo's "Vacation Homes of the Year" for 2023. It was the only Texas home chosen out hundreds of thousands of private residences on the vacation rental site.

The Vacation Homes of the Year showcases several popular homes throughout the country (with the occasional international spot) that range from "idyllic lakeside escapes to cozy mountain retreats and desert paradises." In all, two homes are based in California, and one each in Arizona, North Carolina, Oregon, New York, Florida, South Carolina, Idaho, Colorado, and Mexico.

Texas' Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway is tucked away on five acres of land bordering the Pedernales River in Dripping Springs. The home spans 2,150 square feet with an open-concept living area, three spacious bedrooms, two lavish bathrooms, a modern chef's kitchen, fireplace, and a breathtaking wrap-around terrace.

Floor-to-ceiling windows complete the space, allowing guests to take in all of the tranquility the Hill Country has to offer. With the home's 430 feet of river access, visitors can enjoy escaping the city and relax into the views of the vast canyon below.

Dripping Springs Riverfront HideawayImagine a getaway to this Hill Country paradise. Photo courtesy of Vrbo

The property is within a half hour drive to many of the finest wineries, breweries, and must-see outdoor recreation spots in nearby Dripping Springs. Fredericksburg is only an hour's drive west for those wanting to put a greater distance between them and downtown Austin.

The average nightly cost for the riverfront oasis is $475, making it an ideal destination for small groups, a family trip, or a couple's getaway.

Dripping Springs Riverfront Hideaway

Photo courtesy of Vrbo

The Hill Country Riverfront Hideaway was the only Texas home chosen on Vrbo's list.

Expedia Brands president Jon Gieselman shared in a press release that there were plenty of eye-catching homes to wade through for the report.

"This year’s Vacation Homes of the Year range from an urban oasis and a cozy ranch home under $400 a night to a beachfront estate that can sleep the whole family and more," said Gieselman. "Every single Vacation Home of the Year has a beautiful view, and combined boast seven private pools and fire pits, eight hot tubs and even five putting greens."

The full list of Vrbo's 2023 Vacation Homes of the Year are:

  • No. 1 – The Oasis Estate in Palm Springs, California
  • No. 2 – The Happy Roadrunner in Phoenix, Arizona
  • No. 3 – The Chasestone in Lake Norman, North Carolina
  • No. 4 – The Contemporary Gem in Manzanita, Oregon
  • No. 5 – Ocean View Oasis in Montauk, New York
  • No. 6 – The Riverfront Hideaway in Dripping Springs, Texas
  • No. 7 – 30A My Way in Rosemary Beach, Florida
  • No. 8 – Port of Call in Isle of Palms, South Carolina
  • No. 9 – Salmonfly Lodge in Victor, Idaho
  • No. 10 – Trestle House in Winter Park, Colorado
  • No. 11 – Villa Luna Nueva in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
More information about Vrbo's 2023 Vacation Homes of the Year can be found on their website.