Houston is complicated. Wait - no it isn't. Houston is actually really simple. Big town. Boom town. Sprawled all to hell, it has at its heart a great deal of old neighborhoods nobody seems to want anymore. Not bombed out, but still in no way on the way up. What the fuck? The best areas of Houston are very suburban in feel - think Troy, on steroids: Office towers, shopping malls, subdivisions and freeway on-ramps. Try not to be jealous.
Old, ungentrified Houston - which people seem to be leaving for greener pastures - is surprisingly familiar; think Brightmoor or Dexter Avenue but with a few more people hanging around and a few less bombed out / unsecured properties.
For that, you have to go to Galveston, which harbors a dirty little secret: It was full of wasted space / empty homes long before Hurricane Ike came to town last summer. Here's a sample:
If this is a boom town, I'll stick with bust. It's more honest.
UPDATE 6:26PM: Today I learned that land prices have skyrocketed in some of the aforementioned neighborhoods; I found some interesting examples of new development amid the old. I also met a lot of hopeful people.
That might be the key difference between poor areas of a city like this and a poor area in a shrinking Rust Belt city - in Houston, for instance, people feel like they can get a piece of the pie. Rust Belters (particularly right now) are often fairly sure that's not going to happen. While the latter may be more realistic, sometimes, too much reality is depressing.