Austin residents spent a shocking $36.7 billion on rent in past decade

Austin residents spent a shocking $36.7 billion on rent in past decade

South Congress Avenue Soco Austin skyline
Austin rents have risen 92.6 percent in the past decade. South Congress/Facebook

Most everyone in Austin eventually gripes about the continuing escalation in housing costs. But when you consider how much Austin renters have collectively paid in this decade, the reality becomes even more painful.

From 2010 through 2019, renters in the Austin area shelled out $36.7 billion for their living quarters, according to an analysis released December 11 by real estate website Zillow. To put that in perspective, the size of the economy of Latvia, a small country in northern Europe, is around $35 billion.

If the $36.7 billion figure weren’t jarring enough, the total sum of rent paid by Austinites skyrocketed 92.6 percent from 2009 to 2019. That’s the highest increase among all the major metro areas included in the Zillow analysis. (Raleigh, North Carolina, was second with a 91 percent increase.)

In 2019 alone, Austin renters spent $4.7 billion on housing, up 5.1 percent from 2018, according to Zillow. By comparison, Austin renters spent $2.5 billion in 2009.

To be fair, a considerable chunk of the mammoth rise in Austin rents stems from phenomenal population growth. After all, more people means more renters of apartments, condos, townhomes, and houses. The area’s population swelled 25 percent from 2010 to 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

But a mushrooming population is only part of the story. In tandem with that growth, rental rates in the Austin area keep soaring. Zillow says the current median rent in the region is $1,612 per month, up 3.2 percent in just one year.

Fortunately, there might be some relief in sight.

“With rental appreciation expected to decrease in the coming year and a homeownership rate that has been ticking up over the past few years, a small or even negative change in total rental spending could be in the cards in the early 2020s,” Zillow economist Joshua Clark says in a release.

Elsewhere in Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio also weren’t immune to the costly leap, the Zillow analysis shows.

In DFW, the rent total shot up 83.7 percent over a 10-year span, landing at $104.2 billion in 2019, Zillow says. By comparison, the size of the Puerto Rican economy is nearly $100 billion. This year alone, DFW renters forked over $13.2 billion, up 3.2 percent from 2018, according to Zillow.

As for the Houston area, the entire bill for rent came to $90.4 billion from 2010 through 2019, adding up to a 10-year spike of 65.8 percent, the analysis indicates. That total is close to the size of the economy in the Dominican Republic. In 2019, Houston renters coughed up $10.8 billion, representing a 1.7 percent increase compared with last year, Zillow says.

Renters in the San Antonio area saw a smaller overall jump in the rent total compared with Austin, DFW, and Houston. From 2010 through 2019, renters in the area spent $26.8 billion on housing, accounting for a 10-year increase of 47.8 percent, the analysis shows. That sum is roughly equivalent to the size of Cambodia’s economy. This year, San Antonio renters paid $2.9 billion, down 0.4 percent from 2018, Zillow says.