The San Francisco Chronicle is the latest publication to tackle the California migration, and it credits Californians moving to Texas for Austin's housing boom.
Thousands of newcomers from the Golden State are taking comfort in the Hill Country's rolling hills, budding wine scene and warm weather, the Chronicle writes, while also taking advantage of higher affordability and a better quality of life.
Douglas Yearley, CEO of luxury Central Texas homebuilder Toll Brothers, said that much of that jump is due to Californians, the Chronicle reported. "The pricing power of Austin, which is number one in the country, is driven by California, plain and simple," Yearley said.
It's not all sunny skies
Home prices are being driven up swiftly in Central Texas as newcomers pile in. The Austin metro brings in over 180 people a day, more than anywhere else in the country.
The latest report from the Austin Board of Realtors revealed the median home price reached an all-time high of $566,500 in May, jumping nearly 35% year-over-year.
Meanwhile, California lost residents for the first time in its history last year, with San Francisco losing around 1.3% of its population. Austin is projected to soon become America's 10th largest city, a seemingly symbolic shift as it bumps down current No. 10 San Jose.
It seems the days of the Gold Rush are long gone. Real estate broker Ray Shapley, who helped Californians Josh and Jessi Rubbicco find a home in Austin, told the Chronicle that migration patterns are undergoing a massive overhaul across the country.
"I think the last few decades kind of belong to California. I think the next few decades might belong to Central Texas," Shapley said. "As someone who was born here and loves Central Texas the way it is, I don't know that I necessarily love that."
Shapley's fears are echoed by many Austinites who aren't sure the city is ready to tackle such a large housing boom.
Looking in the mirror
The article admitted that some of Austin's problems reflect that of California. Homelessness has been at the forefront of local politics for years, and the affordability crisis is only increasing in severity as supply-and-demand runs its course in the city.
The difference between Austin and its Golden State counterparts, however, is that the Texas capital's issues may still be solvable. By contrast, the Chronicle reported that many of the Bay Area's crises are deeply entrenched.
While the median home price has grown in the Austin metro, it's nearly triple that ($1.3 million) in the nine-county Bay Area. There isn't enough housing in Austin, but the Bay Area's homelessness crisis could take a whopping $11.3 billion to resolve.
Even property taxes, which are higher in Texas and ever-changing, are worth the better quality of life and sense of community, Josh Rubbicco told the Chronicle. "I feel like we have more friends here now than we've ever had in California," Rubbicco said. "People were so welcoming and friendly."
Austin is also the trendy new HQ for companies—a record 22,114 jobs were introduced from companies moving or expanding in the metro last year, according to the Austin Chamber of Commerce—but issues or not, the Bay Area's role in tech isn't going anywhere, University of Texas associate professor Jake Weggman, who studies housing, told the Chronicle.
"I don't think any of that's going away in the Bay Area. But I do think that the Bay Area is headed for a future where it's a little bit less dynamic... more slow-growing," Weggmann said. "Austin is going to be more fast-growing and dynamic and fast-changing."
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.