Massive Tech Growth in Austin Brings Rising Rents

Austin, TX – Major tech companies like Apple, Google and now Tesla are flocking to Austin. With the increased growth, the city’s housing market has increased in price and led to communities of color moving away from the city. 

According to a story by the New York Times, Austin is “on track to become by year’s end the least affordable major metro region for homebuyers outside of California.” The city has surpassed major cities like Boston, Miami and New York City. 

“Austin is the worst-kept secret,” Job Hammond, secretary treasurer of the Austin Board of Realtors told the New York Times. 

A new report from University of Texas researchers says gentrification is the cause for the “alarming loss” and displacement of low-income communities of color in east Austin. The report, commissioned by the city of Austin, is full of maps pointing out the 16 neighborhoods that are rapidly gentrifying and another 23 neighborhoods that are at risk of being gentrified. 

Heather Way, a co-author of the report and University of Texas School of Law professor, says these changes are “disturbing” and the city of Austin should intervene. 

“You drive down a street one day and all of a sudden you’re thinking, ‘What happened to the apartment building that stood there last week?’” said Way. 

According to local NPR station KUT, the rent in Austin has increased by 20% this year rather than the usual 5%. The average rent in August was $1,511. 

“It has to do entirely with supply and demand,” Maddie Hastings, an apartment locator for  Smart City, said. “Let’s say that unit was going for $2,500. All of a sudden that apartment complex gets five applications in a week. … Overnight the prices are automatically going to update to reflect new, more expensive pricing because they can see the demand is high.”

The Austin City Council has recently met to discuss with city staff the recent article from NYT to analyze it and see how much the cost is for new housing. The study has been done to focus on the impact of  “the price of buying or renting a home and what the city can do to lower these costs.”

“The clock is ticking on housing,” Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents Southwest Austin, said. “I want this information back as soon as staff is able to compile all of the information, because we are all trying to work together up here to make sure we are making housing more accessible and more affordable in our community.”

Nefertitti Jackmon has been assigned the challenging task of preventing widespread gentrification in the city. 

“In Austin, Black and brown neighborhoods have been marginalized and underinvested,” Jackmon said

“It’s an aspirin for cancer,” local historian Fred McGhee told the New York Times.

“Not long ago these used to be all wetlands,” McGhee said. “Now all you see are new developments or plans for one.” 

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