The local homeless population totaled 3,160 people on one day earlier this year, according to a new estimate from the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.
ECHO developed a new methodology for estimating the homeless population on a given day in late January. Using the new method against past years' data, the local nonprofit found that the 2021 estimate was slightly lower—1.1%—than last year's.
Other findings include:
- A 21.1% decrease in the sheltered homeless population between 2019 and 2021
- A 20.6% increase in the unsheltered homeless population over the same time period
A new method
ECHO typically conducts an in-person point-in-time count—an annual homeless census—each January. The 2020 point-in-time count was performed on Jan. 25 and found a total of 2,506 homeless people, including 1,574 who were unsheltered. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 PIT Count was canceled.
As an alternative, ECHO developed a new method for estimating a single-day snapshot using its Homeless Management Information System, which tracks individual information and demographics over time. It pulled data from Jan. 28, 2021.
Because of differing methodologies, ECHO warns that this year's estimate and past point-in-time count data should not be compared. "To use an analogy, the differences between this method and the traditional PIT Count method are akin to the differences between visually counting as many cars as possible in Travis County for a few hours on a single day in 2020, pulling DMV records for cars registered in Travis County on a single day in 2021, and comparing the two to determine how the number of cars has changed year to year," the nonprofit explained in a Friday press release.
ECHO plans to use this new method to provide monthly snapshots in addition to the annual PIT Count.
Although many Austinites feel the homeless population has increased in size over the past year, ECHO points to the data as an indicator that this is unlikely. Instead, the increased visibility of the city's homeless population is likely due to pandemic-related measures, such as the distribution of tents by service providers to encourage homeless people to isolate and CDC guidelines not to disrupt homeless camps, which the city of Austin observed.
"When taken together, these health and safety measures increase the visibility of homelessness in public places, but our data indicate this visibility is not reflective of a rise in the number of Austinites who are experiencing homelessness," Director of Research and Evaluation Akram Al-Turk said in a statement.
This could soon change, however. "We anticipate a possible delayed rise in homelessness when the eviction moratorium and unemployment benefits end, as rents continue rising, and people feel safer accessing services," Vice President of Quality Assurance Sarah Duzinski said during a Friday press conference.
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Officials are asking certain residents in Bastrop State Park to evacuate as crews work to put out a “very active fire” that is currently 0% contained.
The Texas A&M Forest Service has responded to help local fire departments with the Rolling Pines Fire at 100 Park Road 1A, which is consuming 300 acres. Residents of Pine Hill Drive, Pine Tree Loop, Linda Lane and Lisa Lane are being asked to evacuate.
Today’s Bastrop Rolling Pines Fire is burning along Power Plant Road towards Lake Bastrop South Shore. pic.twitter.com/YCvJkIAg1u
— BastropCntyTexas OEM (@BastropCntyOEM) January 18, 2022
Aviation resources have been called to assist.
According to the Bastrop County Office of Emergency Management, the wildfire sparked during a prescribed burn that took place today, despite wildfire warnings. Park Road 1C from Harmon Road to Park Road 1A had been closed for the prescribed burn.
The blaze is in the same location as the Bastrop Complex Fire of 2011, which burned for 55 days, killing two people, destroying 34,000 acres and around 1,700 homes and buildings. The fire, which started in 2011, became the most destructive wildfire in Texas at the time.
A hotbed for fires, the Hidden Pines Fire started at the same location in 2015, destroying 4,600 acres and 64 structures.
Some road closures have been put in place at State Highway 21 South Shore Lake Bastrop and East State Highway 21.
This is a developing story and will be updated as information becomes available.
After months of record-setting periods for Austin real estate, the Austin Board of Realtors announced Tuesday that the metro's housing market accounted for over $23 billion of economic activity in 2021, making it the biggest year yet for both home sales and median home prices in the metro.
The Austin-Round Rock MSA saw 41,316 homes sold in 2021, 2.5% more than a record-setting 2020. Median home prices skyrocketed as well, rising 30.8% from 2020 to $450,000. The housing market also saw unprecedented impact on Austin's economy, with sales dollar volume jumping to over $23.38 billion, and more homes hit the market in 2021 than any previous year, increasing by 5.9% to 46,449 total homes listed.
(Austin Board of Realtors)
As many recent Austin homebuyers have experienced firsthand, Austin Board of Realtors 2022 President Cord Shiflet said 2021 was the most "exciting, complicated, fast-paced and record-setting housing market" in Austin's history.
Shiflet dubbed the market as "complicated" for a reason—Austin became a case study on supply and demand in 2021, with demand far outpacing the number of active listings, which dropped by 48.2% to 2,348 homes in 2021.
The metro ended the year with 0.6 months of inventory, a far cry from a "healthy" six-month supply, and houses were snatched at breakneck speeds, spending 25 fewer days on the market when compared to 2020. The average home was on the market for 20 days.
But low inventory is more due to high demand than a stagnant homebuilding market, Mark Sprague, Independence Title's state director of information capital, said in the report.
“In 2021, the record number of homes sold were demand-driven transactions and that demand was influenced greatly by companies continuing to target the region for job creation and expansion," Sprague said. "Even though more homes are being built, listed and sold than ever before, our region is still nowhere close to having a comfortable amount of supply to meet the demand, which is why home prices continue to rise steadily.”
Over 23,000 jobs have been promised by companies across the metro as of December 2021, breaking the 2020 record, according to Opportunity Austin, the economic development arm of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. With an influx of major factories and offices, including Tesla's Giga Texas, Samsung's Taylor plant and a planned 33-floor Facebook office, Sprague said the region's booming market paired with a struggling inventory and supply chain issues could be a double-edged sword in 2022.
"In short, 2022 will see a robust market for home sales and property values, but the region must do more to address inventory, ” Sprague said.
Shiflet recommended that potential homebuyers make a decision ahead of predicted increases in interest rates and home prices and said that he hopes local politicians will continue to prioritize affordable housing in the election year.
Still, Shiflet said a record-breaking housing market reflects Austin's growing reputation as a hub for talent, tech jobs and a good quality of life.
"With all the new jobs across the region from exciting companies like Tesla and Samsung, Austin was put on the world’s stage and captured the hearts and attention of so many," Shiflet said. "We are lucky to call Austin our home when it has so much to offer from a great quality of life to a wonderful destination for innovation and opportunity.”
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