The reality of high home prices in Austin was the topic of discussion in a recent Community Impact article. But while much of the piece seems to suggest that more government intervention is the solution, most of us recognize that city government is the problem.
To its credit, the article touches on the ill effects of “restrictions on minimum lot size in Central Austin neighborhoods”, but it fails to delve into the overall cost of government regulation, the additional costs created by city actions, or the burden of skyrocketing property taxes.
Government regulation has a dramatic effect on the cost of housing. In 2016, the National Association of Home Builders found that the regulatory costs created by federal, state, and local governments accounted for roughly 25 percent of the price of homes within the U.S. Given the level of micromanagement and environmental activism in Austin, it’s not unreasonable to think that burden might be greater here.
Poor public policies promulgated by the Austin city council are no help either. For example, all new homes and businesses built in Austin must now be “solar ready”, meaning that “they must have enough space on their roofs to add solar panels. The outside electrical box also has to be large enough to incorporate a circuit-breaker for future solar technology.” According to some estimates, that single policy decision could add an average cost of $1,500 to each new home. And there are plenty of other questionable local policies just like this that add cost and make it more expensive to live out the American Dream.
On taxation, it’s undeniable that the burden in Austin is great. In 2017, the average Austin-area property tax bill increased to more than $7,600, according to the Austin American-Statesman. That’s up by more than $500 compared to last year. And over the last 5 years, property taxes have increased by 21% in Austin ($1,342).
So, while some might be tempted to think that government is the solution, it is not. In fact, it’s just the opposite.