Cost constraints

Austin ranks among 20 U.S. cities where middle class can’t afford housing anymore

Austin ranks among 20 cities where middle class can’t afford housing

Austin skyline downtown Lady Bird Town Lake
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Austin’s housing pain is real, and evidence of the high price of housing in the metro area keeps mounting.

A new study from the 24/7 Wall St. website lists Austin among the 20 places in the U.S. where the middle class can no longer afford housing. Austin ranks 18th among the 20 metro areas in that category.

The San Jose, California, metro area tops the list.

The website based its findings on data from a housing affordability report published in 2021 by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. For the purposes of its study, 24/7 Wall St. defines middle-class households as those earning $45,000 to $74,999 a year.

The study says 37.5 percent of middle-class households in the Austin area are “cost-burdened” when it comes to housing. It cites $80,954 as the median household income and 57.6 percent as the homeownership rate.

By contrast, 63.7 percent of middle-class households in the San Jose area are cost-burdened, 24/7 Wall St. says. There, the median household income is $130,865 and homeownership rate is 55.2 percent.

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies, 21.2 percent of homeowners and 46.3 percent of renters in the U.S. are either moderately or severely burdened by housing costs — defined as spending at least 30 percent (moderately burdened) or at least 50 percent (severely burdened) of their income on housing. Nationwide, 24.5 percent of middle-class households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 

“With only a few exceptions, most of the metro areas where the middle class can no longer afford housing are coastal areas,” 24/7 Wall St. says.

For years, government and business officials have decried the increasing lack of affordable housing in the Austin area. In January, the median sale price of a home in the region reached $476,000, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

“Austin’s unprecedented economic growth shows no signs of stopping, with announcements of new projects almost daily. While this is great for Austin long term, our capacity to house people cannot keep up, with people having to drive further outside city limits to find a home they can afford,” Scott Turner, president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, says in an Austin Board of Realtors news release.