The city’s affordability crisis threatens to price out the creative class

Thursday April 28, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Leaders in the region’s entertainment and sporting events industries see problems if the city cannot solve the affordability problems that are forcing working-class performers and audiences to relocate to nearby suburbs.

Citing the rising cost of living, transportation and other infrastructure issues, panelists at this month’s Urban Land Institute of Austin breakfast emphasized that while the city is growing as a destination for tourists and big business, its reputation as a creative Mecca is threatened by rising median incomes and real estate prices .

Veronica Cantu, vice president of marketing for the new downtown Moody Center arena, said real estate prices, which routinely soar past half a million dollars, limit options for longtime residents and newcomers who don’t have six-figure incomes from the influx of tech companies Area.

“We’ve given awards to creatives and entertainers, and to me that’s a huge red flag for the city’s future. If you do that, all you have is the same. Now the only way you can really afford to live here is if you’re in tech, and with that, diversity in central Texas is starting to lose its price,” she said. “The average house is now around $550,000 and in our industry you can’t afford that, so you have to get married or have dual income. That creates an equality of people who can afford to live here.”

Cantu said those concerns are impacting her role, as working-class fans of music and other live events may not have enough disposable income to buy tickets and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find staff to support the many available at the facility to fill jobs.

Bobby Epstein, a partner at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack and concert venue, said developers and real estate professionals in attendance could generate an easy return by building homes near the track and paying the estimated $20 million to expand the dual-track State Street numbers that have become a regular bottleneck for fans attending events. He said the lack of housing, retail and public services in the area near COTA and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will need to be addressed as population growth moves to the area.

“What I couldn’t appreciate was the lack of services for the people who live in Southeast Austin. If you look at equitable growth and see where Project Connect has drawn its limits, it follows the lines of existing population and wealth,” he said. “There are very few services and no restaurant within a two-mile radius of our downtown Austin location, as well as no public transit and bus routes to serve the area…no groceries, no hospital, and we are so close to downtown.” than the other side of the domain.”

Epstein said he sees promise in the number of high-rise housing projects underway downtown, as these units would attract some of the affluent buyers who might otherwise buy from the city’s limited supply of single-family homes.

Points to Austin’s laid back legacy from the start movie of the 90s looserHugh Forrest, South by Southwest’s chief programming officer, said young adults no longer have a variety of homes and places where they can comfortably exist and pursue their passions without aggressively pursuing business or career interests.

“The best thing for creativity is to have a place where people in their 20s can live affordable, and that’s certainly one of the biggest challenges for the city’s future. They don’t do anything, but they eventually come up with creative ideas. I don’t think we have places in the city of Austin for 20-year-olds to sit around and do what they’re going to do to think about what they’re going to do in the future, and that’s worrying to me,” he said.

“We need more affordable housing solutions for our creative class. It will be a key issue 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 whatever that means, then you have to travel a long way to get to the city that we are have now .”

Photo made available under a Creative Commons license.

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