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Fewer Austin residents are burdened by housing costs, but many still struggle

Thursday, September 6, 2018 by Syeda Hasan

Austin is slowly making progress toward becoming a more affordable city, according to a new analysis, but many residents are still finding it difficult to pay for housing.

The report released Wednesday by the nonprofit HousingWorks Austin finds that compared to last year, slightly fewer Austin families are housing cost-burdened. The federal government recommends that people spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Those who spend more are classified as housing cost-burdened. The 2018 report found 37 percent of Austin residents are housing cost-burdened, compared to 37.5 percent last year.

“It is still worth noting that a large number of people are still housing cost-burdened,” said Awais Azhar, research coordinator with HousingWorks Austin. “Particularly overall throughout the city, 21 percent of homeowners and 43 percent of renters are housing cost-burdened.”

The analysis also dug into where subsidized affordable housing units can be found in Austin. A common criticism is that this type of housing is often pushed to the outskirts of a city, away from neighborhood schools, jobs and transit. Rental housing that is affordable to people earning $25,000 or less a year is scarce in some of Austin’s wealthiest neighborhoods, and in recent years, there has been a push at City Hall to change that.

The report found that Austin City Council Districts 6, 8 and 10, which are largely situated west of MoPac Expressway, added more than 1,300 subsidized housing units in 2018. Still, those areas account for only about 5 percent of Austin’s total subsidized housing units.

The report also recommends preserving older homes across the city, which are more likely to be affordable.

“We just have a long way to go,” Azhar said, “but as we move forward … we’re going to require more policy initiatives and greater innovative investments in order to move the needle on our affordability concerns.”

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This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News.

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