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Housing affordability report points to a need for greater disbursement 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021 by Amy Smith

Austin may look good on paper as one of the hottest housing markets in the country, but a closer inspection of each City Council district reveals a disparate picture of economic vitality, according to the findings of a 2020 report on housing affordability.

“While the city of Austin has seen overall gains in home sale prices, household wealth, and a decreasing poverty rate, these trends have not occurred equally across the city,” HousingWorks Austin Executive Director Nora Linares-Moeller said in a statement accompanying Tuesday’s release of the group’s annual review of housing affordability by Council district.

It’s the sixth such report the nonprofit organization has released; it includes a compendium of district-by-district demographics, median incomes, number of unsheltered individuals, vehicle miles traveled as opposed to mass transit, and other data. It suffices to say that the vast majority of residents remain heavily reliant on vehicles. Additionally, the number of people experiencing homelessness increased by nearly 500 above the 2019 count.

With affordable housing, or subsidized housing, at the heart of the HousingWorks report, the findings show that District 1 carries the highest share of affordable housing (8,610 units), followed by District 3 with 7,650 units, and District 2 with 6,643. District 4 has 4,163 affordable housing units, followed by Districts 5, 7 and 9. Districts 8 and 10 show the lowest number of affordable housing units, at 435 and 668, respectively.

Districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 have the highest percentage of residents who identify as people of color and have median family incomes that are nearly half of the citywide MFI.

That is not to say families in other districts are not struggling. District 9, which includes downtown and the University of Texas campus area, has the highest percentage of residents – 26.5 percent – living below the federal poverty level, while District 5 was the only district in which housing cost burdens did not decrease from 2019, and District 8 was the only district to see a jump in the number of people living in poverty.

The report indicates that next year’s findings will provide a more complete breakdown of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, but notes that the existing 2020 data suggests that the pandemic created an even greater demand for affordable housing in all 10 Council districts.

As Linares-Moeller stated in the HousingWorks release, “To affirmatively address the spatial inequalities brought on by race-based discrimination in housing stability and economic prosperity, efforts to build affordable housing should prioritize developments in areas of high opportunity and those that currently lack a sufficient number of housing units affordable to working families.”

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