Austin, Texas has recently been labeled as one of the “least affordable cities in Texas” and is becoming a contender for one of the least affordable cities in the entire country.
Many people wonder what the draw is about this unique city.
Sure, Austin stands out for its Texan culture mixed with progressive attitudes, but is it worth the cost?
We will cover the top 10 reasons Austin is so expensive.
Why Is Austin So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Increasing Population
More and more people are flocking to Austin, Texas.
In fact, it is currently the fastest-growing city in the United States with the population inflating from 656,600 in 2000 to over 1,000,000 in 2022 and more than 180 new people moving to the city every day in 2020.
City planning experts estimate that Austin’s population will continue to increase with more than 600,000 expected new residents by 2029.
While the population growth rate isn’t expected to be quite as astronomical as the previous decade, the numbers are definitely projected to increase.
The population increase comes from immigrants, new tech-industry college grads, and baby boomers moving after retirement.
Even with the new people entering the area, current residents don’t seem to want to leave.
All of these conflicting interests create disharmony from time to time, but ultimately, they contribute to a collaborative and tolerant environment.
Austin has a unique blend of ethnicities and cultures despite the large majority of people identifying as white (48.95) or Hispanic/Latino (34.5%).
There’s also a substantial number of African-American, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultural hubs.
Everyone can find a community that reminds them of home.
It can be helpful to speak Spanish, but you can find work and get by just fine only speaking English.
2. Cost Of Living
With the additional people in the area, there’s more demand for everyday necessities, such as housing, food, transportation, and utilities.
With the increase in demand, the price increases due to the resources needed to accommodate all of the new people.
See the average cost of living expenses in Austin compared to the state average where the national average is 100:
People trying to buy a house will notice the greatest price hike with the average house in Austin costing $551,200 while the average home in Texas costs $243,600 and the average home in the United States costs $291,700.
You can find better deals if you look in the right neighborhoods.
The most affordable Austin neighborhoods include:
- Hyde Park
- East Riverside
- North Lamar
Even the less expensive neighborhoods can be too expensive for most people.
If you don’t mind a little bit of a commute, you can consider one of the nearby affordable suburbs of Austin:
- Buda: 20-minute commute
- Hutto: 30-minute commute
- Kyle: 25-minute commute
- Leander: 30-minute commute
- Lockhart: 40-minute commute
Most people in Austin get around with the use of a car.
The public transportation, while existent, isn’t the best.
3. New Construction Zoning
In Austin, there are significant construction restrictions regarding new construction despite the need for new housing to accommodate the flocks of people coming to the city.
A large part of the land is zoned for single-family homes as opposed to high-rise construction that would accommodate more people.
Instead of changing the zoning laws, most residents vote against new zoning for fear that high-rise construction could potentially lower the value of their current homes.
Even in the city, homeowners in Texas expect space.
However, there’s only so much space to accommodate all of the people.
Furthermore, high rises can negatively impact the view.
Even urban areas are seeing a huge upgrade with low-income housing getting knocked down for luxury condos and apartments.
Unfortunately, thanks to the gentrification of the area, the lower-income population can no longer afford housing, becoming displaced in neighborhoods at the edge of the city and establishing homeless communes in the city.
A disproportionate number of homeless people are minorities.
We need to make room for everyone, but that’s easier said than done.
4. Business And Tech Industry Boom
Austin’s tech industry holds its own against other large technological centers, such as Silicon Valley and New York.
Between August 2019 and July 2020, there were a reported new 19,000 new IT jobs in Austin, making it a great place for anyone who wants a career in the IT field.
Tech industries choose Austin thanks to the culture of the area.
Texas is also ranked as the best state in which to start a business due to laws related to business development and the great talent in the area.
The tech juggernaut Tesla has its headquarters in Austin, and many other tech giants (Apple, Amazon, Dell, IBM, and AT&T) also have a huge presence in the area.
The tech industry now makes up 17% of the job opportunities in the area, and it also contributed to the average household income increasing dramatically.
Austin includes numerous other industries outside of tech, including manufacturing, healthcare, and construction.
Since people can find well-paid work in the area, they are willing to pay more for housing and other amenities.
5. Educational Opportunities
In order to take advantage of the business opportunities, it requires an education.
The public school system in Austin, Texas offers some of the greatest schools in the nation.
In fact, Meridian School ranks as the sixth-best high school in the nation and the Liberal Arts and Science Academy ranks as the 16th best high school in the nation with both achieving a 100% score when it comes to college readiness.
Teens won’t have to travel for college if they get accepted into one of the universities in the city.
The best colleges in Austin include:
- The University of Texas at Austin
- St. Edwards University
- Austin College
- Huston-Tillotson University
The University of Texas at Austin is the best university in the state and one of the largest universities in the country with more than 50,000 students and a wide curriculum.
For parents with children about to graduate high school, it can give you comfort to know that there are also great colleges in the other nearby Texas cities, so your child can go to school outside of Austin, if they choose, without having to move too far away.
6. Geographic Advantages
Austin, Texas offers a lot of geographic advantages to other areas.
Not only is it helpful for the city to be in the middle of the country as opposed to one side of the country like California or New York, but it also has the advantage of being near Mexico and the other large Texas cities.
Texas is a very large state. While not necessarily close enough for a daily commute, Austin is in the middle of the state and close to the other major cities in Texas, which can make for fun day trips and easy proximity to additional educational/business opportunities.
- Houston: 165.2 miles
- Fort Worth: 189.8 miles
- Dallas: 195.4 miles
- Arlington: 202.3 miles
All four cities are only about three to four hours away by car.
Climate And Wildlife
Austin has beautiful weather for people who don’t mind a little heat and sunshine.
In fact, Austin gets 300 days of sun every year.
Summers can get rather hot, but you usually see some semblance of winter in December and January, giving the illusion of seasons.
The climate can be conducive to a wide range of outdoor industries thanks to the warm weather, sunshine, and rich soil.
However, the area is also susceptible to droughts, which can put farming at a complete halt and put livestock at risk of heat stroke.
Residents take advantage of the sunny weather by visiting the numerous different parks and hiking trails in the area.
On top of the warm weather, the area offers gorgeous scenery in the form of clear skies, prairies, and rolling hills, making outdoor excursions even more captivating.
However, it’s wise to use sunscreen and drink plenty of water during outdoor activities.
Austin also ranks as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country since most of the parks (and even a lot of the cafes and bars) happily accommodate dogs.
Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy the climate.
Austin has one of the largest populations of bats in the country, and you can watch them fly into the sky at sunset almost every single night.
7. Restaurants, Live Music, And Nightlife
Many people complain about living in a place that doesn’t offer a lot to do.
That’s never a problem in Austin thanks to the endless supply of restaurants, music venues, and bars in the area.
Plenty of people will pay a lot of money to live in one of the food capitals of the country.
While many people debate which state has the best barbecue in the country, Texas always pops up at the top of the list.
Two of the best barbecue joints in the country, Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue, are located in Austin, Texas. Don’t limit yourself there, though!
Ask locals to tell you the best hidden gems that might not show up on the popular online lists.
Furthermore, Texas offers fantastic TexMex that combines Mexican cuisine with a Texan flair.
You can also find great authentic Mexican food.
One of the most popular treats you can enjoy is a breakfast taco.
The city is also known for its food trucks and currently has more than 2,000 food trucks throughout the city.
Don’t know where to start your food journey?
Take a bike tour of the best foodie hot spots, and then you can hit the places you didn’t get to visit during the tour the next day.
Not super hungry?
You can enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes that give off a hipster vibe but offer some of the best coffee in the state.
Music And Nightlife
Austin, Texas boasts the title of “live music capital” of the country thanks to more than 100 venues hosting free live music every single night of the week.
Naturally, a large portion of the music is country music, but you’ll find music in every genre so you can pick whether you want to line dance or jump into a mosh pit on any given night.
Austin has a long history of musical talent.
Some of the famous musicians who called Austin, Texas home include:
- Janis Joplin
- Stevie Ray Vaughn
- Willie Nelson
When you do go out, you’ll notice that many of the hottest bars exist in old homes and barns.
While the area is rather expensive, you’ll be pleased to find that the drinks are cheap.
You can even get a strong Bloody Mary for only $3 at a city establishment.
8. Austin History, Culture, And Art
As part of Texas, Austin has a proud history of having declared independence from Mexico and developing a unique identity for itself.
Many residents will pay to live in a state that they have so much pride in.
Once known as Waterloo, Austin was named after Stephen F. Austin and developed a unique reputation for itself distinct from the rest of the state while still maintaining a strong connection to its roots.
Historic And Cultural Attractions
Of course, one of the greatest attractions is the Capitol Building.
Not only is it one of the largest capitals in the country, but it’s also made from beautiful sunset red granite.
Take a tour of the interior as well as the impressive outdoor spaces.
Some of the additional museums and attractions that showcase city culture from the past and today include:
- Texas Memorial Museum: Enjoy the Hall of Geology and Paleontology and the Hall of Texas Wildlife.
- Mexic-Arte Museum: View the colorful Mexican art exhibits and celebrate Dia de los Muertos in style.
- George Washington Carver Museum: Learn about the influence of African-American culture in the area at this free museum designed to highlight and promote African-American accomplishments.
- South Austin Museum of Pop Culture: See the art of the modern era by experiencing classic and new pop culture exhibits.
You may be surprised to find out that some of your favorite movies were filmed in Austin:
- Dazed and Confused
- Miss Congeniality
- Kill Bill
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Austin lends itself so well to film thanks to the ample space and sunshine.
It doesn’t hurt that the landscape contributes to attractive (or gritty) scenery.
Actresses Farrah Faucet and Renée Zellweger both attended the prestigious film school at the University of Texas at Austin as well as directors Robert Rodriguez and Wes Anderson.
9. Liberal Politics In A Red State
Texas has a reputation for conservative political leanings.
Austin stands out as the one city in the state that doesn’t necessarily follow suit when it comes to politics.
Austin, Texas is part of Travis County, where 71.4% of residents voted Democrat in the last presidential election.
Considering Austin is the capital of the state, the liberal influence shines through more than in liberal cities in other red states.
While racial tolerance, environmental issues, and pro-LGBT and pro-women policies aren’t necessarily exclusive to liberals, the residents of Austin prioritize these concepts and fight for them strongly.
Unfortunately, not all progress happens overnight.
Texas has some of the most restrictive abortion laws of any state thanks to recent legislation that prevents an abortion once a heartbeat can be detected (generally at six weeks).
Luckily, residents can vote for new representatives who can uphold traditions without hindering progress.
Austin’s liberal mindset isn’t necessarily new.
During the Civil War, every county in Texas voted to secede from the Union except for Travis County (the county that’s home to Austin).
In line with the liberal mindset of the area, Austin works hard to promote progressive environmental efforts.
The large influx of people means less land for wildlife.
Austin works hard to reduce the impact of urbanization by saving land for parks and natural parks.
Austin also encourages building to enjoy green roofs and rain gardens to create natural oxygen and homes for wildlife.
The city is also working hard to incorporate green initiatives that promote clean water and healthy plants.
They have also begun to emphasize water conservation ever since the recent drought.
Pollution is also a very real concern thanks to the increase in population and industry.
10. Keeping Austin Weird
Austin’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird.”
A librarian used the phrase on a local radio show, and it quickly caught on, becoming the official motto in 2000.
You may notice a not-so-vague similarity to Portland’s motto of “Keep Portland Weird,” but Austin had the motto first.
What makes Austin weird?
Some of the weird events and pastimes in Austin include:
- Topless-Friendly Beach, Hippie Hollow, on Lake Travis: Feel free to sunbathe without fear of tan lines at Hippie Hollow, the only topless beach in the entire country. Bottoms must remain in place, however.
- Moonlight Towers: Once thought to be antiquated, Austin has the last known remaining moonlight towers. These towers utilize the moonlight to illuminate the city.
- Cathedral of Junk: Located in a resident’s backyard, this structure consists of garbage and never looks the same since it’s always being updated.
- Legal Graffiti: Austin officials provide designated areas for street artists to show off their graffiti skills. However, taggers can’t vandalize private property and undesignated public property.
- Turtle Racing: It’s exactly what it sounds like. Despite the slow speed, the excitement is at full speed.
- Chicken-Sh*t Bingo: A chicken casually enjoys a stroll over a large Bingo board. Gambling bystanders wait to see where the chicken chooses to answer nature’s call to see if it landed on their square.
- Annual O. Henry Pun-Off: If you find yourself in a punny mood, go up against the best of the best at the annual O. Henry pun-off to see if you can win the favor of the judges with your compilation.
- Eccentric People: You’ll also find eccentric people in the area, such as the beloved yet quirky actor, Matthew McConaughey. Celebrities aren’t the only ones with a unique vibe. Even the regular people walking the street tend to freely embrace creativity and art with innovative fashion, hair, and makeup choices at every corner.
For all of the pride, nature, nightlife, and sunshine of urban Texas, without the conservative views but with a quirky twist, you can’t beat Austin.
For people who thrive in this particular scene, the area is priceless.
If you’re working on a budget, you can find reasonably priced areas in the nearby suburbs.
Luckily, you’ll be able to save up thanks to the high average salary in the area.