To afford a two-bedroom rental home in the Austin-Round Rock area, you'll need a $25-an-hour job, according to a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. If you're working a job that pays minimum wage, you're looking at a 140-hour workweek to afford that same two-bedroom.
Federal guidelines say residents should pay no more than 30% of their household income on rent and utilities.
The nonprofit's annual Out of Reach report highlights housing affordability across the country, measuring the wages needed to pay fair-market rent in a given area. In Austin and other cities across the U.S., that fair-market rent is determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD estimates the fair-market rent for a two-bedroom home in Austin is $1,315 a month. The survey found a resident earning an hourly wage of $25.29 would be able to comfortably afford that. But the housing coalition's analysis sets the average hourly wage in the Austin area at $20.34. At that wage, an affordable rent would be $1,058. Someone who makes that wage would have to work 50 hours a week to afford $1,315 a month.
For perspective, $1,050 was the fair market rate for the Austin area in 2013. So, Austinites in 2019 are making enough in hourly wages to afford a two-bedroom – six years ago.
Charlie Duncan, research director at Texas Housers, says the report reflects what Austinites already know: Austin's affordable housing stock hasn't kept pace with its explosive population growth.
"As [the hourly wage required to afford housing] creeps up, that's indicative of this continuing divide, this widening divide, between what a lot of folks are earning in Austin and what the housing costs are," Duncan said.
He points out that while the Census Bureau's American Communities Survey puts Austin's median income at nearly $96,000, many Austinites still struggle. A 2018 report from the nonprofit HousingWorks Austin found 43 percent of renters in Austin were burdened by housing costs.
"Despite the high median income here in Austin, there's a lot of folks making at or near the minimum wage, and they're really under water when it comes to finding a place that's affordable to them," Duncan said.
A study from the housing coalition earlier this year found Austin had only 21 affordable units for every 100 extremely low-income renters. While the need for housing is obvious, there are other factors at play in the affordability crisis, Duncan says.
He says all of this is underpinned by HUD funding cuts under the Trump administration for public housing programs like the Housing Choice Voucher program, known as Section 8.
Still, Duncan says, he's glad Austin has taken steps to bridge that housing gap – namely passing a $250 million affordable housing bond last November. But, he says, the city needs to do more than build more homes to tamp down the gap in affordability.
"We still have a long way to go to adequately meeting that need."
Correction: This story initially said it would require 150 hours of work a week on minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom, fair-market rate home.