Although Angelos Angelou, founder and principal executive officer of AngelouEconomics, called Austin’s future “bright,” he said the city faces growth issues that require policy to fix.
On Jan. 26 at the 2016-17 Economic Forecast, Angelou said the Greater Austin area may have grown past 2 million people in 2015, and Austin may grow by 65,000 more residents in the next two or three years. Also estimated to grow is the local job market, which could see 60,000 more jobs, or a 6.3 percent increase, in the next three years.
With all the growth, Angelou listed three local problems: unaffordable housing, low-paying jobs and traffic congestion.
Connecting the issues of housing and job pay, Angelou said the professional and business services job sector had an average pay of $61,100 in 2015, making employees in the sector able to afford a home at $235,000 or lower. The average price of a home in Austin is $330,000, and the median price of an Austin home is $270,000, he said.
To address housing affordability, Angelou suggested policies such as eliminating building permit fees or re-evaluating property tax rates to bring more affordable housing online.
For the job market, Angelou said the city should be more business friendly and implement policies that attract high-paying jobs instead of low-paying jobs. He added that economic development requires years of buildup.
“As someone who has been involved with economic development for the past 33 years in Austin, economic development is not a switch you can turn on or off anytime you want,” Angelou said.
Traffic congestion will continue to worsen in Austin, he said. Austin’s growth has brought 25,000 new vehicles to the city per year, and the per capita annual traffic delay is 52 hours, Angelou said.
Angelou said solutions to aiding traffic congestion, such as subways but not light rail, could be beneficial in the long term when the population is more dense and “every square foot” is filled. He also suggested building employment centers in different quadrants of the city that allow people to work closer to where they live.
“Let’s not be victims of our own success; complacency has never gotten anybody anywhere,” Angelou said in conclusion. “I am proud to live in Austin. Let’s keep Austin weird … but also business friendly. There’s no reason why we can’t have both.”
Angelou, founder of the Austin-based economic development consulting firm, was one of three speakers for the economic forecast. Tracye McDaniel, president and CEO of the Texas Development Corp. and TexasOne, spoke about business and marketing initiatives by the state of Texas in 2015. John Silvia, managing director and chief economist of Wells Fargo, spoke about the national and international economic future.