AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s “missing housing” was the focus of a new research report by the Austin Board of REALTORS, or ABoR.
Emily Chenevert, CEO of the Austin Board of REALTORS, joined KXAN’s Jennifer Sanders to discuss the board’s new research report diving into the city’s undersupplied housing inventory and ongoing affordability issues in Austin-Travis County.
Read a full transcription of the discussion below or use the video player above.
SANDERS: OK, a lot of data. We have to sift through with this. But just to give our viewers some context at home, this report evaluated housing affordability for two household sizes two and four-person households, as well as repeat and first-time buyers. What did you find in these findings? What did you find was? What were the top barriers for people trying to attain homeownership?
CHENEVERT: Yeah, I mean, really, I think we found what our gut has said a long time about the Austin community that we lack affordability—that we lack the accessibility for our neighbors and friends across the community to access homeownership and unlock the wealth-building that can create for them.
SANDERS: The data really underscores that there is that undersupply, as we talked about, of homes for buyers earning a certain amount of income. I looked through that data. So, what do the findings show about how much individuals or even families need to make in order to really afford a home in our area? And once you look at that, is there enough supply to meet that demand?
CHENEVERT: Yeah, the short answer to the latter of your questions is that no, there’s not enough supply, and we’ve known that our supply has not met the demand that we’ve had across this region for a long time. For many years, we really tried to focus in terms of the incomes that we were focusing on, on the people that make our community go around those EMS workers, those teachers, firefighters, people that we really rely on in our community, that make reasonable salaries, but that are not reasonable in the context of what it means to buy a home in Central Texas. So, 120% of the median family income and Austin and a two-person household is nearly $120,000 a year. That’s two of those occupations that I listed in one household that is not reasonably accessible in terms of their ability to buy a home in more than 70% of that income bracket.
SANDERS: So, now you all listed out several recommendations for policymakers. What are some of those recommendations that we can see maybe in the short term in the long term to really break down these barriers so people can attain homeownership?
CHENEVERT: Well, the good news is that many of the recommendations that we’re making are things that are in progress under the current mayor’s leadership and the current council’s leadership. So, they have made tremendous efforts this year toward implementing policies that we think will help alleviate this affordability challenge. Those are things like reducing the minimum lot size, reducing the parking requirements, and development. And most importantly, I would say overhauling the process of developing land and building houses here to just make it more efficient and less costly than it is today. Some of those things are in progress. Some of those are policies that they’ve passed since the top of the year. But we’re really excited to see how proactive and active this council is right now. We hope that this research will provide context as they keep looking for future policy decisions that they can make, as well.
SANDERS: Some of these things are in process. We know that the process sometimes takes a long time. Do we have a timeline on when we could see things starting to happen?
CHENEVERT: Right? Well, we saw yesterday the release of a very important report that the mayor helps champion called the McKinsey report that details many of the recommendations that we believe will be impactful on that overall land development process, helping fix the kind of planning and development department in the city of Austin, he has pledged to make, you know, proactive and relatively swift action related to the findings of that report. We think that’s a great place to start, and we’re glad to see him prioritizing that.
SANDERS: What was the key takeaway that you got from this report? Like I said, there’s a lot of data. I wish that we could sift through it all. We can’t, but we’ll put this online. What was the key takeaway for our viewers at home who are watching who are desperately trying to attain homeownership?
CHENEVERT: Well, part of what has held Austin back is a cultural conversation about the level of commitment that as a community, we have to create more affordability even when we understand that that can make change that we’re sometimes uncomfortable with. So, what we hope that takeaway is for the broader Austin community is that all of us believe that Austin is a place that should be accessible to everyone in terms of housing and that we work together to find solutions that move us forward in solving for this gap and the amount of housing that we need.
Read the full report below:
SANDERS: In addition to policy, is there anything else that can be implemented in the short term that can help us with this?
CHENEVERT: Yeah, well, obviously working with a professional realtor that’s going to have access to the downpayment assistance programs that are available to you and a deeper understanding of the specific and acute areas of the market that you’re looking at. If you’re looking in one neighborhood that might have a different experience than another one and you want an agent to help guide you in terms of what’s affordable and accessible to you and what your overall buying power is. So, we encourage you to work with a professional realtor to be sure that you’re being guided through that process.