Housing affordability crisis: New report looks at how bad it is in Austin

We all know Austin has a shortage of affordable housing, but a new report is showing just how bad the situation is.

The report by the Austin Board of Realtors looked at housing by city council district and also found that the crisis is impacting some demographics worse than others.

Clare Losey with the Austin Board of Realtors joins FOX 7 Austin's John Krinjak in this FOX 7 Focus to discuss.

JOHN KRINJAK: So we know housing is expensive here in Austin. It costs a lot to buy a house. The market has changed so much in recent years. But what does this report reveal about the scope of this problem?

CLARE LOSEY: So the report really takes a more nuanced look at the shortage of housing. So, for example, we know that in Travis County, there's a shortage of affordable homes to the tune of about 250,000 versus about 211,000 homes in the city of Austin. However, we also boil that down to five different income cohorts. And then we also look at the extent of the shortage of homes across all ten council districts in Austin, as well as five different racial and ethnic groups.

JOHN KRINJAK: And when you looked at those different districts, first of all, what did you find?

CLARE LOSEY: Well, essentially, there is a shortage of affordable homes in all ten council districts in Austin. The disparity ranges somewhat. We found that there's the greatest proportional need for affordable housing in District four. But the largest number of housing and new homes needed is in Council District five. And then with respect to the other nine council districts, District ten was essentially the best position with respect to the shortage of affordable homes. But again, stressing there that there is a shortage of affordable homes across all ten districts.

JOHN KRINJAK: And looking at it through the prism of different racial and ethnic groups. How much of a disparity do you find there?

CLARE LOSEY: Certainly a large one. So the Black or African-American population within Austin is about 4% of the total population, but they have a shortage of about 26,000 affordable homes across the region versus the Hispanic or Latino population, which has a shortage of about 78,000 homes and then households of other races. They have a shortage of about 61,000 homes.


JOHN KRINJAK: What would you say is to blame for this? Does it have a lot to do with just the rapid growth, just the influx of population we're seeing from outside of the city into Austin?

CLARE LOSEY: So there are very strong demand side fundamentals in our housing market right now. So strong population growth, job growth. This is especially good for existing homeowners, right, as they've been able to capture that very strong home price appreciation, especially that during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for would-be buyers, for potential home buyers, it can become a particularly large issue, right? If they're not able to find homes that are affordable to their price point. Fewer than 10% of homes sold are transacting for that under $300,000 price level. And that's really so households essentially need to be earning about 90 to $100,000 to be able to enter the housing market in Austin. So obviously that's quite prohibitive to a large number of households in Austin.

JOHN KRINJAK: Do you feel the city is doing enough to address this issue? And if not, what more should the city government be doing?

CLARE LOSEY: At the Austin Board of Realtors, we've been particularly encouraged by recent initiatives undertaken by our mayor and just his staff at large. In essence, what we're calling for in our recommendations with this report is a focus on reducing those minimum lot size requirements and facilitating the supply of new housing. We know that all else equal, if the supply of homes increases, that should mitigate some of the upward effects on home prices. Right. That we're seeing as a result of those very strong demand side fundamentals.

JOHN KRINJAK: All right. Clare Losey from the Austin Board of Realtors. Clare, thanks for being here. We appreciate it.

CLARE LOSEY: Thanks so much for having me.