The Rent is Too Damn High (in Austin)

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Austin is just too popular for its own good. Rents in Austin have reached an historic high, with average rental prices of $1.15 per square foot and units up to $2.50 per square foot in the central business district. In Texas as a whole, the average price is closer to 60 cents per square foot. While a one-bedroom in Travis County averages $1,180, the average one-bedroom in Texas $660.

And there's no sign of stopping. Austin rents rose 4 percent from 2011 to 2012, and are expected to increase another 5 percent in 2013.

Read about how this plays out by neighborhood and what it means for low-income households after the jump.  Downtown Austin comes with a premium of almost $2,000 per month in rent, with prices hovering around $1,500 in the surrounding neighborhoods. While not everyone needs to live in a shiny new condo with granite countertops next to the Whole Foods, there is essentially no neighborhood with affordable rents within the city limits.

Median Rent Per Bedroom in Austin

In Texas, the average renter earns $15.43 per hour, meaning they can afford an apartment that costs $802 per month. But the minimum wage in Texas is $7.25. A household supported by a minimum-wage worker would need to find rent for less than $400 per month to be considered affordable. Another way of looking at the need: there are 120,000 households in Austin who make less than 30 percent of area median income, which is about $22,000 for a family of four. That's close to 15 percent of the population of Austin. In order to pay what's considered an affordable rent, they would need to find a two- or three-bedroom unit for less than $600 per month. Inside Austin city limits, it's near impossible. It just means less to spend on food, health care and other basic needs.

Developers have certainly taken note of the rental shortage, and supply will be increasing:17,000 apartments are currently under construction and 10,500 will be underway soon. Unfortunately, while it will bring a lot of money into the city, it doesn't mean rent will necessarily get any lower or that there will be more affordable units (you can read more about why here). For high-tech professionals moving from San Francisco, it may not be a problem. But for most Austinites, the rent is just too damn high, and will be getting even higher.  

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About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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