This story was co-reported with Reporting Texas, a project of UT Austin's School of Journalism.
Once again, Austin has landed at the top of another list. But this one doesn’t put the city in the best light.
In Austin, the fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,074 per month – the highest in Texas. That amount is $202 more than the average fair market rent for the state.
The coalition compares cities based on “wage incomes,” which is how much an individual must earn hourly at a full-time job to be able to afford a two-bedroom rental unit at fair market rent. In Austin, it's $20.65 an hour.
“Austin’s housing wage … is four dollars more than the state-level housing wage and nearly two dollars more than the national average,” says coalition spokesperson Sarah Brundage.
Affordability is defined by the federal government as housing costs taking no more than 30 percent of your earnings. By that standard, nearly 54 percent of Austin renters can’t afford the standard two-bedroom rental unit benchmark, Brundage says.
“The average renter in Austin earns $16.76 an hour, and so since the housing wage in Austin is $20.65, this shows that the average renter in Austin can’t afford housing,” Brundage says. “54 percent of Austin renters can’t afford the two-bedroom rental unit.”
Extremely low-income families can only afford a monthly rent of $566, far below the fair market rent.
“They can only afford $566 in rent for it to be affordable, but the fair market rent is $1074 a month,” Brundage said. “These extremely low-income families are very likely to be spending more than they can afford on rent."
Ken Martin is the executive director of the Texas Homeless Network, one of the coalition's partners in the report. According to Martin, there’s a large correlation between a lack of affordable housing and homelessness.
“We are seeing more and more people that are actually living in homeless situations that have either full-time or part-time work, and just can’t afford a place to live,” Martin says. “Even people who are precariously housed, sometimes if they have a crisis situation, they have to make a determination like ‘Am I going to buy this medicine for my child, or am I going to pay my rent?’ They are going to buy the medicine most likely.”