Suburban Surge

Suburbs to propel Austin area past population milestone this year

Suburbs to propel Austin area past population milestone this year

Austin skyline including Lady Bird Lake
Austin suburbs continue to propel area growth.  Visit Austin, Texas/Facebook

The Austin metro area is now home to nearly 2.2 million people — about 100,000 more than the region had just 18 months ago — and the suburbs are propelling much of that growth.

When will the Austin area actually pass the 2.2 million mark? Ryan Robinson, the City of Austin’s demographer, predicts that’ll happen sometime around this October.

New estimates from Robinson indicate the region had 2,156,168 residents as of January 1, 2018. That’s up 4.9 percent from 2,056,405 on July 1, 2016, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to Robinson’s estimates, the city of Austin had 963,116 residents as of January 1, 2018, compared with 947,890 as of July 1, 2016. That’s an 18-month rise of 1.6 percent.

The 1.6 percent population increase for the city of Austin, compared with the region’s overall growth rate of 4.9 percent, suggests the suburbs — where homes and apartments are cheaper — continue to be a magnet for residents. In recent years, the growth rate of suburbs like Cedar Park and Georgetown has outpaced the growth rate of Austin.

Robinson thinks the “biggest story” among the area’s population growth trends is that the city's share of the region’s growth fell to 30 percent in 2015-16 from 48 percent in 2011-12. Going forward, he thinks that figure will stay around 30 percent to 35 percent.

“To my mind, there are more quality-of-life amenities within the city, but the price of housing continues to climb and the vast majority of new units are being created in the suburbs,” Robinson tells CultureMap.

The suburban surge is reflected in figures compiled by the Austin Board of Realtors. In November, the volume of single-family home sales climbed 10.2 percent in Williamson County compared with a year earlier and 14.3 percent in Hays County, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. Meanwhile, the volume of single-family home sales slipped 1.3 percent in Travis County and 3.3 percent in the city of Austin.

Lower home prices in Williamson and Hays counties help explain the jump in sales volume.

In Williamson County, the median price in November for a single-family home was $275,000; in Hays County, it was $260,000. By comparison, the median price in November for a single-family home in Travis County was $341,000, and $360,000 within the city limits.

“Due to rapid population growth throughout Central Texas, Austin continues to have one of the highest demands for housing in the nation,” Brandy Guthrie, immediate past president of the Austin Board of Realtors, said in December. “Homes sales are the strongest where price points are the lowest and where development options are available, such as parts of Williamson and Hays counties.”