Moving to a new city can feel exciting and overwhelming at the same time, and finding housing is often the most time-consuming aspect of planning your move. Houston is a large city with a lot of different living options, and this article aims to help you make decisions about where to live!
Important Things to Know About Finding Housing In Houston
An important characteristic of Houston is the concept of being inside or outside “The Loop.” The loop refers to the highway I-610, which literally encircles the innermost part of Houston. Housing outside of the loop will generally be cheaper than housing inside the loop, but living outside the loop will lengthen your commute to campus as well as heighten the chances that you’ll regularly battle highway traffic. Housing inside the loop will keep you living closer to campus as well as closer to many major entertainment spots in the city, such as the Museum District, Midtown, Montrose, Hermann Park, etc. Living inside the loop is often more preferable for most graduate students, especially if students do not have a car. You will find that Houston is a big driving city. However, Houston does have a bus system and a light rail, and Rice students can get a discounted public transportation pass that makes riding public transport highly affordable. Many graduate students are also able to find housing in reasonable walking or biking distance to campus.
For a large city, housing in Houston is relatively affordable. Most graduate students find that they can live comfortably on the yearly stipends that their graduate program provides. Some students are able to find affordable one bedroom apartments, though living with roommates generally expands your options given your budget. If you would prefer to live with roommates, talking to other incoming students is a great place to start. Joining the Rice University Housing, Sublets, and Roomates Facebook page will connect you to incoming and current students who may be looking for roommates, looking for sublets, or posting about available rooms that need to be filled. You can also reach out to current graduate students in your program. They may be looking for new roommates, or they may know people who are looking.
When looking at apartments, always ask about the apartment’s flooding history. Make sure to ask about flooding history for both the particular unit you may be interested in and the larger building as a whole if that unit is part of a complex. Your safest bet is to avoid first floor apartments all together if possible! Heavy rain can flood parts of the city even without the devastation of a hurricane.
Popular Housing Options
Rice University offers two university housing options for incoming graduate students: Rice Graduate Apartments (RGA) and Rice Village Apartments (RVA). Both apartment buildings are owned by the university and house graduate students exclusively. Both RGA and RVA come with furnished bedrooms (mattress, bed frame, bedside table, dresser, desk, and desk chair) in all units, which is a big perk if you are unable to move furniture. On-site laundry, Wi-Fi, and gated parking are included, as well as other amenities such as community study rooms. Shuttles to and from campus run continuously throughout the week, and a shopping shuttle runs on the weekends, so these apartments are also a convenient option if you do not have a car. RGA is located in the West University neighborhood area, and RVA is located in Rice Village. Both apartments are relatively close to Rice, though RGA lacks closeness to the shops and dining that Rice Village has to offer. RGA and RVA are popular living options for first year graduate students, and they are especially popular with students who do not have the ability to visit Houston and hunt for an apartment prior to the start of their semester. RGA and RVA are also popular with international students because of the ease of working with University Housing, having furniture provided, and having reliable campus transportation via Rice shuttles. RGA does not accommodate families, but RVA will accommodate graduate students who are moving to Houston with a partner and/or children.
Many graduate students live in non-university apartment complexes close to campus. Generally, most of the housing in Houston consists of large apartment complexes, smaller apartment buildings, and converted houses for rent. Your options will largely depend on which part of the city you choose to live in. The closer to Rice, the more expensive apartment complexes tend to be, though some of the neighborhoods adjacent to campus have affordable garage apartments. The current graduate students in your program will likely be a great resource for information on where to live, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them for their opinions! Other great resources for apartment hunting include websites such as HAR.com, the Houston Chronicle, and Greensheet. Most larger apartment complexes will also post their information on more generic websites such as ApartmentFinder.com or Apartments.com. Rice itself provides great housing information for incoming students on the Off-Campus Housing page. Check out their helpful hints and neighborhood guide. For international students, the Office of International Students and Scholars also has a Housing page filled with valuable information and resources to help international students choose their new home in Houston.
Some of the more popular areas that are close to Rice are listed below along with brief descriptions of what you’re likely to find living there:
- Vibrant neighborhood just north of campus with lots of small shops, restaurants, and bars
- Has mostly smaller apartment complexes or converted houses for rent
Texas Medical Center/ NRG Stadium area
- An area very close to campus that puts you in a convenient location, but lacks the multitude of shops and restaurants of Montrose
- Has many larger, newer apartment complexes
West University and the Museum District
- An expensive area around the Rice University campus that is largely single family homes with a more suburban feel
- Garage apartments are most common here, and complexes are scarce
- North of campus and close to Montrose, an area with lots of shopping and food options
- Has many larger, newer apartment complexes as well as some smaller apartments or houses for rent
- This area is a bit further away from Rice, but it is close to the Galleria mall and lots of shopping centers
- Has many larger, newer apartment complexes
About the author: Originally from Massachusetts, Emily Elia is a second-year Ph.D. student in political science. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2018 and currently studies comparative politics with a focus on Latin America.