A new analysis published by the Austin Board of Realtors found disparities in housing affordability and availability across the city’s council districts and racial categories.

The analysis, "The Truth About Austin’s Missing Housing—District Level Analysis," was published in November as an extension of its August analysis.

In it, officials reported in the first half of 2023, more than half of four-person households earning 80% or less of the median family income faced a severe shortage of homes considered affordable to them in Austin.

How we got here

ABoR officials conducted the analysis to highlight the pressing need for more attainable housing in Austin to refocus conversations around housing policies after “years of discussions and minimal policy changes," said Taylor Smith, ABoR deputy director of government affairs.

“It’s a response to the growing difficulty for many homebuyers to find affordable homes in Austin, and acknowledging the ongoing undersupply in our housing market is the first step towards change,” Smith said.

Breaking it down

According to the report, there are not enough homes for buyers earning up to 80%, or $93,450, of the median family income among four-person households in Travis County, Austin and all 10 council districts.

While District 5 had the highest number of missing homes at 32,109, District 4 has the greatest proportional need for new housing to keep up with demand as it faces an estimated 65.6% undersupply of housing.

“More than half of four-person households in Austin earning 80% or less of [the median family income] face an estimated 50% undersupply of housing considered affordable to them,” Smith said. “This translates to a staggering shortage of more than 211,000 homes, severely impacting the city’s ability to meet Austin’s housing demand.”

The report also found that housing affordability is, on average, lower for Hispanic or Latino households, Black or African American households, and households of other races compared to non-Hispanic or Latino white and Asian households.

Smith said in Austin there is an estimated shortage of 26,388 affordable homes for Black/African American households and 77,677 affordable homes for Hispanic/Latino households.

What’s being done

Smith said the lack of attainable and affordable housing has escalated due to decades of increased demand and inadequate supply, with the pandemic accelerating these issues.

Local regulatory barriers and antiquated land development codes have also “severely restricted the creation of new housing,” he said, and housing shortages have driven up development and homeownership costs.

In December, Austin City Council approved changes to single-family land-use rules under the first phase of the Home Options for Middle-Income Empowerment initiative, or HOME, spearheaded by District 7 council member Leslie Pool.

Recent policy changes approved by the Austin City Council are a step in the right direction, but there is still more to be done to improve housing affordability,” Smith said.

Some of these policy changes include code amendments that:
  • Reduce the minimum lot size and allow for up to three homes per residential lot
  • Remove minimum parking requirements citywide
  • Reduce compatibility standards to create housing that is diverse in price point and can serve more residents within a smaller land area
While these changes are a “step in the right direction,” Smith said there is still more to be done to improve housing affordability.

“Local leaders should focus on policy and process changes that remove regulatory barriers to housing, streamline the development review process, and reduce the cost and time it takes to build new housing in Austin,” Smith said. “Initiatives that allow for the creation of more missing middle housing, like townhomes, triplexes and cottage courts, are crucial for addressing Austin’s housing affordability crisis.”