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6. Develop and Maintain Household Affordability throughout Austin


The Household Affordability Priority Program focuses on developing and maintaining household affordability throughout Austin. This Priority Program is responsible for considering not only household costs such as mortgage, rent, and utilities but also transportation and access to daily and weekly needs as essential and interrelated components of household affordability.

Household Affordability Indicators Summary

We're Improving
median family income
We Haven't Changed
residential vacancy rate
cost-burdened residential units
homeless count
Wrong Direction
median housing values
median gross rent
number of affordable residential units funded
The Imagine Austin indicators associated with this priority program show complex and dynamic results from the past five years. In general, the affordability issue in Austin is dire, and certain groups in our community feel its consequences more acutely than others. Many indicators hint at the suburbanization of poverty or the displacement of low-income households from Austin. And while the City of Austin continues to leverage the tools we have to influence these distressing trends, tackling affordability in Austin in a comprehensive way is beyond the ability of the city government alone. Such a large-scale and difficult challenge requires considerable effort from a wide and diverse array of organizations, and the City of Austin will continue to rely on strong partnerships within our community to help us reach our vision of an Austin that is affordable and accessible to all.
Below you will find a detailed analysis and description of each of the Household Affordability indicators. 

#3 median housing values

Description: This indicator measures the median housing value, which divides the value distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median value of the property (house and lot, mobile home and lot, or condominium unit) and one-half above the median. The data include only units that are owned or on the market and reflect what the property would sell for if it were for sale.
Rising median home values have displaced many longtime residents and discouraged affordable development in central Austin. Imagine Austin calls for the creation of more affordable housing by way of partnerships and incentives to bring families back into the urban core.
Analysis of Results
Median home values have increased over time with a steeper rise starting in 2012. This increase has resulted in Austin becoming less affordable as wages are not increasing as quickly as housing costs.
Change in Median Housing Prices 2011-2015
Methodology
The data for this indicator include all housing units that are owned or currently on the market and their sale price if they were on the market at the time of the study. The values are divided into two equal parts with one half of the values falling below the median value and the other half above the median value.
The American Community Survey is a survey with sampled statistics on the citywide level and is subject to a margin of error. ACS sample size and data quality measures can be found on their website in the Methodology section.
Data Source + Collection Cycle
data collected annually
Learn More
To learn more about the relationship between Austin's housing costs and wages, check out the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.

#4 median gross rent

Description: This indicator measures the median gross rent, which divides the gross rent distribution into two equal parts: one-half of the cases falling below the median gross rent and one-half above the median. The data include only renter-occupied housing units paying cash rent.
The majority of Austinites rent and do not own their property. The tighter mortgage market means rental property will continue to play a large part in housing Austin’s residents. Rising rents have displaced many longtime residents and discouraged affordable development in central Austin. Imagine Austin calls for the creation of more affordable housing by way of partnerships and incentives to bring families back into the urban core.
Analysis of Results
Median gross rents have increased over time with a steeper rise starting in 2012. This increase has resulted in Austin becoming less affordable as wages are not increasing as quickly as housing costs.
Change in Median Gross Rent 2011-2015
Methodology
The data for this indicator include all renter-occupied housing units paying cash rent. The values are divided into two equal parts with one half of the values falling below the median gross rent and the other half above the median gross rent.
ACS is a survey with sampled statistics on the citywide level and is subject to a margin of error. ACS sample size and data quality measures can be found on their website in the Methodology section.
Data Source + Collection Cycle
data collected annually
Learn More
To learn more about the relationship between Austin's housing costs and wages, check out the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.

#5 residential vacancy rate

Description: This indicator measures the number of vacant or uninhabited housing units divided by the total number of units. Vacant units are excluded from the housing inventory if they are open to the elements, that is, the roof, walls, windows, and/or doors no longer protect the interior from the elements. Also excluded are vacant units with a sign that they are condemned or they are to be demolished.
Vacancy status has long been used as a basic indicator of the housing market and provides information on the stability and quality of housing for certain areas. The data is used to assess the demand for housing, to identify housing turnover within areas, and to better understand the population within the housing market over time. These data also serve to aid in the development of housing programs to meet the needs of persons at different economic levels.
Analysis of Results
Austin’s residential vacancy rate has been relatively stable, hovering around 8% over the past 5 years. While there is some residential vacancy, it includes vacancies at all price points, so it does not necessarily mean there are affordable units available for  low- and moderate-income households.
Austin’s housing supply has grown substantially in recent years, increasing by 64,000 units between 2007 and 2015; however, a stable vacancy rate shows that additional housing units are being occupied as quickly as they are being produced. This is indicative of Austin’s rapid population growth during this same time period.
Austin is also seeing an increase in the percent of the population with higher incomes, a factor that contributes to the increase in home prices and rents.
Methodology
The data for this indicator are pulled from the American Community Survey.
ACS is a survey with sampled statistics on the citywide level and is subject to a margin of error. ACS sample size and data quality measures can be found on their website in the Methodology section.
Data Source + Collection Cycle
data collected annually

#6 cost-burdened residential units

Definition: This indicator measures the percent of households where monthly rent (plus utility and/or housing fuel costs) or mortgage payments (or other housing debt costs) equal 30% or more of a household's monthly income. This metric provides a more complete picture of how affordable it is to live in Austin, since housing costs are but one of the components of the cost of living.
Rising costs of living paired with a slower wage growth has contributed to affordability issues in Austin. Imagine Austin calls for the creation of more affordable housing and to address household affordability with a holistic approach that address all of the various components that influence the cost of living.
Analysis of Results
The percentage of cost-burdened households in Austin has remained relatively stable hovering around 28% over the last 5 years; however, this does not account for households who have left Austin for more affordable housing options outside of Austin's city limits.
Cost-Burdened Renter Households
Low-income renters are most impacted by rising housing costs. For renters making less than $35,000, the vast majority are spending more than 30% of their income on rent alone. The majority (53.6%) of households making less than $35,000 who rent are actually severely cost-burdened meaning that they pay more than half of their income on rent.
Methodology
This indicator is calculated by adding the total households spending more than 30% of income on housing costs from renters (table B25070) and owners with or without a mortgage (B25101) and then dividing the sum by the total number of households in Austin.
ACS is a survey with sampled statistics on the citywide level and is subject to a margin of error. ACS sample size and data quality measures can be found on their website in the Methodology section.
Data Source + Collection Cycle
data collected annually

data for cost-burdened renter household breakdown comes from 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B25074
Learn More
To learn more about the relationship between Austin's housing costs and wages, check out the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.

#11 homeless count

Definition: This indicator measures the total number of persons who were identified and counted as homeless in the federally mandated Austin/Travis County annual point-in-time count. By its nature a count only includes persons who are homeless on the day of the count. Point-in-time counts tend to underestimate families and children and do not include individuals living in marginal situations.
Homeless persons are often subjected to the elements, crime, and other maladies, which often results in tragic consequences. Imagine Austin calls for reducing homelessness through supportive housing, mental health services/counseling, and alcohol/drug treatment.
Analysis of Results
As housing costs rise, more households are vulnerable to experiencing homelessness. Austin's point-in-time homeless counts have hovered around 2,000 people since 2009.
The number of persons counted experiencing homelessness during the ECHO point-in-time counts is only one of the figures used to understand progress in ending community homelessness. ECHO reports that at least 7,000+ persons experience homelessness over the course of a year in Austin/Travis County. 
Methodology
Between 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on January 28th of each year, over 500 volunteers count the number of children, families and adults experiencing homelessness sleeping outdoors without shelter. Volunteers counted people in cars, tents, parks, under bridges, and on the streets. That same night, staff at agencies operating shelters and transitional housing programs count persons staying sheltered in their facilities as well.
Data Source + Collection Cycle
point-in-time homelessness counts are conducted annually by ECHO
Additional Notes
Due to changes in data collection methodology, number before 2009 are not considered comparable.
Learn More

#17 number of affordable residential units funded

Description: This indicator measures the number of units created and/or retained through the Rental Housing Development Assistance (RHDA) program. This program works to create affordable rental housing for predominantly low-income working families, seniors, single parent families, individuals with special needs, and individuals transitioning from homelessness.
Rising housing costs have displaced many longtime residents and discouraged affordable development in central Austin. Imagine Austin calls for the creation of more affordable housing throughout the city through partnerships and incentives to bring families back into the urban core.
Analysis of Results
Variation in affordable rental housing production is largely based on the development cycle. Leveraging local resources, such as 2006 and 2013 Affordable Housing Bonds with Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA), produces the maximum number of affordable rental housing units for the City of Austin and its residents. These bond programs have been instrumental in increasing the City’s affordable housing inventory.
Methodology
This measure is calculated by summing the total number of units created and/or retained through the RHDA program.
Data Source + Collection Cycle
data collected annually for COA Performance Reporting
Learn More
To learn more about the affordable housing goals in Austin and strategies identified to achieve them, check out the Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint.

#85 median family income

Definition: This indicator measures the median family income, which divides the income distribution into two equal parts: one-half of family households falling below the median income and one-half above the median.
Median family incomes have generally been outpaced by median housing prices, and are thus an indication of housing affordability and general prosperity. This indicator may not capture households who have left Austin for more affordable housing options outside of the city limits.
Analysis of Results
Widely considered an indicator of overall regional prosperity, Median Family Income (MFI) for metropolitan Austin for 2017 reached an all-time high of $81,400—jumping 4.6% from its 2016 level, following three consecutive years of smaller increases. This trajectory confirms a narrative that greater Austin is becoming decidedly more affluent due to the in-migration of higher income households, and yet, demographic analysts are challenged to fully understand all of the dynamics involved. Much has been written about the national phenomenon of the suburbanization of poverty, and Austin speaks to this trend. The durable vibrancy of Austin’s economy is beginning to act as a centrifuge as low-income families have been displaced from the central city due to extremely steep increases in the cost of housing.
The question remains: is metropolitan Austin’s MFI climbing because of economic vibrancy and a new affluence driven largely by richer incoming households or is it being buoyed by lower income households and families leaving the region? More than likely it’s a combination of both forces. Either way, as seen in the map below, the landscape of family incomes across metropolitan Austin is not smooth and deep disparities in family income persist along stubborn geographic lines.
MFI by Census Tract
Methodology
This indicator measures the median family income, which divides the income distribution into two equal parts: one-half of family households falling below the median income and one-half above the median.
MSA data were pulled from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For information about how HUD estimates median family income, visit huduser.gov
Data Source + Collection Cycle
data collected annually

Priority Program #6
Erica Leak of the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Department is the Household Affordability Priority Program Champion. 
Contributing departments include: Neighborhood Housing and Community Development; Planning and Zoning; Economic Development; Austin Public Health; Austin Code