Some locals moving out of Austin as city becomes more unaffordable

Finding affordable housing in Austin is getting more and more difficult. 

On Tuesday, city leaders reassured the public that they’re working to solve the crisis. But for many Austinites, it’s too little, too late, and they’ve already been priced out. "I was very irritated when I had to sell the house. I'll be honest," said Andre Thompson, an Austin-Travis County medic.

Thompson bought a house in Southeast Austin six years ago, but this July he had no choice but to sell. "I get the tax bills that would just start going up," said Thompson. "And then I got one that was very close to $10,000."

So he downsized and now rents a one-bedroom in South Austin.

"I got used to it. I took a second because it's so much less space," said Thompson.

He says it’s sad that people like him, who save Austinites’ lives every day, can’t even afford a home here. "There are a lot of people that work for the city that need to kind of be around, but probably don't make, you know, $300,000 a year," said Thompson.

It’s a situation city leaders admit is a crisis. Tuesday, Mayor Steve Adler and the nonprofit HousingWorks proclaimed this week "Housing Affordability and Housing Supply Week." 

The announcement comes as Austin City Council holds a series of special meetings to come up with solutions. "As a community, we have to do more, and we have to do it quick," said Awais Azhar of HousingWorks.

Right now the median sales price for a house in Austin is approaching $455,000, and rents are up 20% since the pandemic. "It honestly, it brought me to tears," said Christabell Nunez, who was born and raised in Austin.

Nunez and her husband moved in with her in-laws last year. 

Now, finding a home of their own has been impossible. She says she offered $100,000 over asking price on one house and was still out-bid. "It’s come to my realization that I'm going to have to live somewhere else and not even in the outer city limits," said Nunez.

Nunez works for the state but also has a podcast called "What the Bell", where she hears from others facing similar challenges with housing. "And I know people would like to be rewarded with at least being able to live within their city," said Nunez.

Recently, Austin has invested billions to spur more affordable housing, including a $250 million bond in 2018. "The policies we have in this city are producing more housing per capita than any other city in the country," said Adler. "And yet even still that’s not enough."

But for Sonia Montes, it’s too late. "I decided that it was time for a change," said Montes.

After living in Austin since she was a child, last year Montes and her family moved an hour north to Killeen, and she’s not looking back.

"I have a four-bedroom, almost 1900-square-feet house that I'm paying for less than what I was paying for my two-bedroom apartment," said Montes. "I was just trying to look at the bright side."

City leaders are looking at a number of possible solutions to this crisis. They include upping affordable housing funding even more, reforming land development codes, and streamlining the development process—so more homes and apartments can be built faster across the city.

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