Seton Healthcare CEO: Austin’s affordability crisis negatively impacts the workforce

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Seton Healthcare Family CEO Jesus Garza provided an anecdote about midway through Wednesday’s address to the Real Estate Council of Austin about the city’s affordability crisis and its impact on the workforce.

Garza, who spoke Wednesday to Real Estate Council of Austin members at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin, reflected on one experience in which he excitedly hired two highly qualified operating room nurses from Dallas to take much-needed positions at Dell Children’s Hospital.

After accepting the positions, the new hires began looking for housing, and that’s when the deal fell apart—amid a national shortage of nurses

“They compared their compensation to the housing market,” Garza said. “And they moved back to Dallas.”

Seton Healthcare CEO Jesus Garza addresses the Real Estate Council of Austin. His presentation focused on the impact of the housing and affordability crises on the workforce.

Seton Healthcare CEO Jesus Garza addresses the Real Estate Council of Austin. His presentation focused on the impact of the housing and affordability crises on the workforce. (via Tess Cagle/Community Impact)

The message was clear: The housing crisis and the inequity of the market has a ripple effect on the community—touching everyone, from the individual looking for housing to the healthcare giant who needs to fill crucial middle-income positions.

On the employer side, Garza proposed looking into employer-subsidized housing.

“Is it time for us to begin to think about employer-subsidized housing?” Garza said. “I’m not suggesting this be done on a fast track, but it needs to be a part of the conversation.”

“Is it time for us to begin to thin about employer-subsidized housing? … it needs to be a part of the conversation.”

— Jesus Garza, CEO of Seton Healthcare Family

Throughout his presentation, Garza referred to numbers collected by 360 Real Estate Analytics:

  • Since 2010, the metropolitan area’s median family income has risen 6 percent
    • 73,800 to $78,300
  • But the median home price has risen 61 percent.
    • $189,400 to $305,000
  • A majority of the neighborhoods that have seen home sale prices increase more than 60 percent are in East Austin, an area historically populated by minorities and low-income families.

“Putting [housing and jobs]in the center city only is not looking at this broad enough,” Garza said. “Also looking at this as only an Austin issue is not a good thing. This has got to be more than just [the city and county]. It has to be multijurisdictional.”

Garza stressed the importance of CodeNEXT—the city’s overhaul of its land development code—and the public, private and private non-profit sectors coming together to help provide housing units that people can afford.

Mandy DeMayo, executive director of Housing Works—a nonprofit housing advocacy group—made an appearance at the event for a Q&A with Garza. She said CodeNEXT will not deliver the housing units itself and echoed Garza’s earlier sentiment that it would take a full community effort.

“[CodeNEXT] is an important opportunity,” DeMayo said. “It’s going to be painful … it’s our shared responsibility.”

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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