Austin mayor calls for $500 million bond to help ease housing crisis

(Bloomberg) – Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants the Texas city to borrow up to half a billion dollars to help create more affordable housing as soaring home prices threaten crowd out the middle class.

Bloomberg’s Most Read

“It’s our existential challenge right now,” Adler said in an interview outside his downtown condo on Monday. “Austin is building more homes per capita than any other city in the country, and it’s still not enough.”

Adler, 65 and in his eighth and final year as mayor, plans to push for a $300 million to $500 million bond sale to relieve median home prices that have jumped nearly 20% over the past over the past year to reach $568,000. He doesn’t want to hold back the city’s rapid growth – it has posted the fastest population increase among major US cities in the decade to 2020 – but says cheaper housing is needed for types creatives that inspired the unofficial motto of “Keep Austin Weird”. .”

“The only way to stop the growth is to make it an undesirable place to live, and I don’t want to be the mayor who does that,” Adler said.

The mayor’s aim is to win voter approval for the bond in the November election, although he warned it was “very early” in the planning phase. He said there had been no review of the city’s link capacity without additional taxes.

Austin has attracted companies such as Tesla Inc., Oracle Corp. and a slew of smaller startups to set up their headquarters, while tech giants including Meta Platforms Inc. and Alphabet Inc. also have a strong presence. Transplants enjoy zero income taxes, mild winters, a relaxed regulatory environment, and a still relatively low cost of living compared to coastal cities. Graduates from the University of Texas’ flagship campus are a talent pool. All of this has helped boost the city’s population to nearly 962,000, up 22% over the past decade.

The influx of high-tech companies has resulted in a multitude of well-paid employees. Adler says the city must now prioritize creating conditions that will foster more jobs that don’t require four-year college degrees but pay a living wage.

“We have a lot of jobs that pay $150,000 and above in the tech industry,” Adler said. “What we need in this city are middle-skilled jobs.”

Adler said he hopes such jobs will come from Tesla’s Gigafactory as well as Samsung Electronics Co.’s recently announced $17 billion chip factory to be built in Taylor, a town about 45 Minutes from Austin.

Growth risks

Adler says some of the socially conservative laws Republicans have pushed through the state legislature may make it harder to attract businesses to the area, especially those competing to hire highly skilled professionals. Companies such as Microsoft Corp. and American Airlines Group Inc. have expressed opposition to efforts to limit voting rights, and others have criticized laws that some say discriminate against transgender people. Last year, the state enacted one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, prompting a new round of criticism.

“Some companies have offered to let employees live elsewhere and pay for it,” Adler said. “I’ve heard some national companies question their decisions to move to Austin.”

That said, it’s hard to find many specific examples of major employers deciding not to come to Texas because of politics. And for many people, the calculation of a move is more nuanced than just whether a state is dominated by Republicans or Democrats.

For now, Austin can compete with other big cities for talent by “just doing a really good job of being Austin,” Adler said. “People themselves choose to live here who enjoy being in a highly creative, entrepreneurial, innovative and risk-taking place.”

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Most Read

©2022 Bloomberg LP

About Louis Miller

Check Also

Mona Al Marri opens the SGI Dubai lounge at the Dubai World Trade Center

Her Excellency Mona Al Marri, Director General of the Dubai Government Media Office, …