Austin is in the throes of an “affordability crisis” that is being driven in large part by poor public policies, according to a recent op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman.
In 2016, nearly 58,000 moved to the Austin area, marking a significant increase in population. But, as the author notes, city policies made it hard for supply to keep up with demand.
Austin has a slate of building restrictions that are “nationally notorious for being burdensome and restrictive.” Things like minimum lot sizes, minimum site areas, height limitations, and restrictive zoning policies all make it difficult to maintain adequate supply.
In addition to the regulatory burdens on housing, there is also the issue of excessive taxation. Over the last ten years, the average homeowner saw their city property tax bill grow from $705 to $1,251, representing an average increase of $546. Overall, the average homeowner’s total property tax bill is thought to be greater than $7,600 annually.
Homeowners shoulder this huge tax burden—as well as other costs, like impact fees—so as to prop up a massive city budget.
Austin also needs to stop raising taxes. It can. With less than 950,000 residents, Austin’s fiscal 2018 budget equals almost $3.9 billion — or almost $4,100 per person. Austin spends almost 75 percent more per citizen any other big city in Texas: San Antonio spends $1,809 per person; Houston spends $2,257; and Dallas spends $2,352.[emphasis mine]
Together, city government regulation, taxation, and spending are contributing greatly to Austin’s affordability problems. If Austinites are ever to get a real handle on this issue, then city government must reduce its footprint and its appetite.