The city’s affordability crisis threatens to drive down the price of the creative class

Thursday, April 28, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Leaders in the area’s entertainment and sporting events industries see trouble ahead if the city can’t address affordability issues that are forcing artists and working-class audiences to relocate to nearby suburbs.

Highlighting the rising cost of living, transportation and other infrastructure issues, this month’s Urban Land Institute of Austin breakfast panelists pointed out that as the city expands in As a destination for tourists and big business, its reputation as a creative mecca is threatened by rising median incomes and house prices.

Veronica Cantu, vice president of marketing for the new downtown Moody Center arena, said home prices steadily climbing above half a million dollars are limiting options for long-time residents and newcomers. newcomers who don’t have six-figure incomes thanks to the influx of tech companies to the region.

“We rated the creatives and we rated the artists, and to me that’s a huge red flag for the future of the city. When you do that, all you have is the same. Now, you can only really afford to live here if you’re into tech, and with that, diversity in central Texas is starting to come at a price,” she said. “The median house is now around $550,000, and in our industry you can’t afford that, so you have to get married or have a dual income. This creates a similarity between people who can afford to live here.

Cantu said these concerns impacted his role, as fans of music and other working-class live events may not have enough disposable income for tickets, and he was becoming increasingly more difficult to find employees to fill the many jobs available in the establishment.

Bobby Epstein, a partner at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack and concert venue, said the developer and real estate professionals in attendance could get an easy return by building housing near the track and paying the $20 million estimated to expand the national highway to two lanes. which has become a regular choke point for fans attending events. He said the lack of housing, retail and public services in the area near COTA and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport must be addressed as population growth moves through the area.

“What I couldn’t appreciate was the lack of services for people in southeast Austin. When you look at equitable growth and see where Project Connect has drawn its lines, it follows the lines of existing populations and wealth,” he said. “There are very few services there and no restaurant within two miles of where we are in the city of Austin, as well as no public transportation and bus routes to serve the area. .. no grocery store, no hospital, and we are as close to downtown as the other side of the Domaine.”

Epstein said he sees promise in the number of high-rise residential projects underway downtown, as these units will attract some of the wealthy buyers who might otherwise be looking to buy into the city’s limited supply of single-family homes.

Pointing to Austin’s laid-back heritage from the start 90s movie LazyHugh Forrest, director of programming for South by Southwest, said young adults no longer have a variety of homes and places where they can comfortably exist and follow their passions without aggressively pursuing business or professional interests.

“The best thing for creativity is to have a place where people in their twenties can live affordably, and that’s definitely one of the biggest challenges for the city going forward. They do nothing but end up coming up with creative ideas. I don’t think we have places in the city of Austin where 20-year-olds can sit and do whatever they’re going to do to think about what they’re going to do in the future, and c is a concern of mine,” he said.

“We need more affordable housing solutions for our creative class. This will be a central question in the upcoming mayoral race and there are no easy answers. We also need to improve our transportation systems because if you can’t afford to live in Austin and you have to move to Pflugerville or Buda or somewhere else, then you have to travel long distances to get into the city we have now. .”

Photo made available via a Creative Commons license.

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