It isn’t news to anyone who lives here—Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. With the daily influx of new patrons to the area, housing prices continue to skyrocket while availability of affordable housing rapidly shrinks.
But what does “affordable” really mean?
Government standards define housing as “affordable” if a family spends less than 30% of their income on rent. Austin has the highest average rent costs in the state, at about $1,050 for a two-bedroom apartment. The average rent for a two-bedroom in cities around the rest of Texas is about $867.
However, one must look at more than housing costs to determine the affordability of a city. Childcare in Austin can cost up to $16,000 a year—that’s about the same price as a year of in-state tuition at the University of Texas. Considering the median household income in Austin is less than $60,000 a year, this means more than a fourth of a family’s income is spent on the care of just one child. That leaves little left for gas, groceries, healthcare, and all of life’s other necessary expenses.
For example, let’s say one Austinite is working a job where they make minimum wage at $7.25 an hour. This person would have to work 111 hours (about three full-time jobs) a week just to pay for their two-bedroom apartment.
65% of Austin residents are dissatisfied with the cost of housing.
Voters passed a $65 million bond measure last year that aimed to create affordable housing options. However, most of the great work being done to increase the availability of affordable housing is targeted at serving the extremely low-income side of the spectrum. Meanwhile, more and more expensive luxury units are appearing on the market, creating a “missing middle”–a lack of housing options for the median Austin family.
In September, we held a debate in which five Austin mayoral candidates gave their viewpoints on this issue, as well as other hot-button topics, such as out-of-school time and early childhood education. With Election Day right around the corner, it is vital to educate yourself on candidates’ stances on these issues and take the time to vote.