AUSTIN, TEXAS—A popular bumper sticker here reads “Keep Austin Weird.”
Part of that is making sure the city remains a place for all types of people to live and work, says Mayor Will Wynn.
“Austin has changed in the past 10 years from being one of the more affordable cities in the country to being one of the less affordable,” he says. “The city balances attracting businesses and people to the city with the character and diversity that keeps Austin unique. As housing becomes increasingly unaffordable, we need to continue to rise to the challenge to provide a variety of housing options for all citizens.”
The 2008 median sales price for a home in the Texas capital was $240,000, an 85 percent jump from the 1998 median price, according to a market study commissioned by the city. The rental side also has its challenges, with only one in six renters earning less than $20,000 able to find affordable housing in Austin, the 16th-largest city in the nation and the country's second-fastest growing metro between 2007 and 2008.
Wynn cites several moves to help address the housing needs. In 2006, voters approved a $55 million general obligation bond for affordable housing—$33 million for rental and $22 million for homeownership for seven years. About $10 million in bond funds were allocated to 11 projects in fiscal 2007-2008.
Austin also established its SMART (Safe, Mixed-Income, Accessible, Reasonably Priced, and Transit-Oriented) Housing initiative in 2000.