Like the original oil boomtowns of Texas past, it looks like Austin's "boomtown" status may be slowing down, according to U-Haul's 2021 data.
The moving truck company found Texas to be the No. 1 growth state of 2021 and Austin—labeled the best city in the world to move to by a 2021 U.K. study—No. 16 for U.S. cities, making it one of the state's top growth areas. The rankings were measured by comparing the net gain of over 2 million one-way U-Hauls that entered and left U.S. cities in 2021.
In the decades-long tradition of young wanderers and professionals packing their bags for the adventure of the Live Music Capital, one-way U-Hauls to Austin were up 22% when compared to 2020. But creeping up behind Austin's gleaming arrival stats are U-Haul departures, which were up 18% in the same time frame. And with arriving U-Hauls making up just 50.4% of one-way rides in Austin in 2021, the nation's newest tech hub may be leveling out.
Is Austin's fire-hot growth slowing down? The city's housing market, which unexpectedly broke records near the beginning of the pandemic before peaking in June 2021, has started to cool down with the seasons.
The metro's median home price dipped to $470,000 in November, down from an all-time high of $482,000 in June, and home sales were down 4.9% when compared to November 2020. Austin's rep as a cheap big city haven also suffered as many found out the hard way that the city's housing market was predicted to become the least affordable major metro region outside of California in 2021.
Maybe Austinite Elon Musk's catchy "boomtown" nickname for his new city will soon fall out of fashion. But with Austin becoming a city of many identities aside from music and tech, including crypto, poker and odd sports, it may be safe to say Austin will see more than 15 minutes of fame.
“The growth in Austin has been exacerbated by the amount of people moving away from California,” U-Haul Company of South Austin president Kristina Ramos said. “Austin is an awesome city that provides great opportunities.”
That trend was revealed in the stats—California was the No. 1 state for move-outs in the U-Haul study.
Perhaps some balance will strike a rare peace between "Don't California My Texas" natives and, well, Californians as both old and new Austinites look to make the quickly-changing city home.
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You can now see your favorite Austin spots, from Lady Bird Lake to Sixth Street, on Netflix's new show "Twentysomethings: Austin."
The reality show, which was previously called "Roaring Twenties, premiered Friday on Netflix with the first six episodes; the last six come out Dec. 17. It follows eight strangers living under the same roof in Austin as they seek to "(step) out of their comfort zone" and find adventure. Much like Austin itself, these up-and-coming young people are grappling with finding steady ground during the pandemic. The series is sure to be a heartwarming take on the equally-confusing time that comes just after those coming-of-age movies.
Here's a look at the eight 20-somethings featured in Roaring Twenties:
Natalie Cabo, 26
Natalie Cabo had a more sheltered upbringing than most—her parents filmed her every move in her "strict Latin household" growing up," and her father wouldn't even let her hug boys without covering her chest.
Now, she's ready to make up for lost time, get her first boyfriend and have some fun in Austin.
"She is boldly extroverted yet adorably charming, and is making it her mission to do whatever it takes to get herself boo'd up in Austin, one awkward first date at a time," her bio reads.
Raquel Daniels, 25
As "one of the few black women who works in IT," Daniels may find her happy place in booming tech town Austin.
A Florida A&M grad and model and fashion ambassador on the side, Daniels hopes to add to her resume by making the connections needed to start her tech startup.
"She loves old-fashioneds, playing the stock market and roller skating, but you'll never catch her barefoot unless she's in the pool—she has a phobia of her uncovered feet touching the ground!" her bio reads.
Bruce Stephenson, 23
A Greenville, South Carolina native, Stephenson works with his father at Stephenson Insurance, but he has dreams of working for a professional sports team (preferably baseball). This "corn-fed, responsible guy" is ready to shed his roots and try his luck at a serious relationship while in Austin.
"It's always a party when Bruce is around—he lives by the motto 'LET'S GOOO!'," his bio reads. "He's a good corn-fed, responsible guy who respects women and loves ice cream... maybe a little too much."
Abbey Humphreys, 25
At 25, Houston native Abbey Humphreys has experience beyond her years—she's already a divorcee after marrying her high school sweetheart at 20. Now a microinfluencer, Humphreys hopes to find her identity, explore her bisexuality and get wild in Austin.
"She has no idea who she is or what she wants to do with her life, but she knows she's ready to shed the 'handcuffs' of her marriage and conservative upbringing and get into some trouble in Austin," her bio reads.
Keauno Perez, 28
At 28, Perez is the oldest on the show—and he's already got the accomplishments to show for it as the Coordinator for Residence Education at the University of Arkansas.
Perez came out as gay at 25 after years of struggling with his sexuality in the conservative area where he grew up, and he's now ready to shed his Arkansas roots and find himself in Austin. He's also a second-generation American and the first in his family to graduate from college, according to his bio.
"Keauno is like a puppy everyone immediately falls in love with—but he's never been kissed!" Perez's bio reads. "Keauno is leaving Arkansas behind as he hopes to find his 'gay sensei' in the very LGBTQ+-friendly community in Austin, and maybe a boyfriend to boot!"
Isha Punja, 24
An Irvine, California native, Punja thought until recently that Miami was in Maine. But her lack of geography skills belies her education and ambition: a UC Berkeley economics graduate, Punja is now working to build Hut Mentality, her fashion brand centered on ethical clothing made by indigenous women in rural India.
"Isha is clumsy, gullible, and forgetful, but she knows it, and owns it," Punja's bio reads. "After struggling with depression, she realized she needed to follow her passion, and started designing clothes."
Kamari Bonds, 23
Bonds is one of three 23-year-olds to round out the youngest on the show. A model back in his home of North Carolina, Bonds is former creative business marketing major who hopes to find ways to focus on his entrepreneurship in Austin while continuing to prioritize fitness—and maybe finding love along the way.
"He loves Southern accents and hopes to find a fiery Texan woman to settle down with...eventually," Bonds' official bio reads. "For the next few months in Austin, he wants to play the field, hit the gym, and manifest his destiny... whatever it may be."
Michael Fractor, 23
An Austin native who's moving from Los Angeles, Fractor is attracted to the "weirdos" of his hometown, which is why he hopes Austin is where he can get his stand-up comedy career off the ground. With Joe Rogan in the house and an up-and-coming comedy scene, maybe this is the perfect place for Fractor to pursue his career "with absolutely zero training or experience." While he's "unafraid to bomb night after night," he is desperate for a girlfriend, according to his bio.
"He's chasing this dream wherever it takes him, even if it's to a place of failure and being forced to give it up and make a change," his bio reads.
Find the cast members' official bios here.
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Before transplant Elon Musk dubbed the city a "boomtown," a nickname had already emerged: "Silicon Hills". But the name, a mesh of the Bay Area's "Silicon Valley" moniker and a reference to West Austin's Hill Country landscape—hasn't sat well with some.
I'd be ok if I never saw the nickname "Silicon Hills" used ever again.— Matt Largey (@Matt Largey) 1636763951
Love or hate that Austin has been commonly coined "Silicon Hills," the phrase is likely here to stay. Half of the name, silicon, refers to the base material of semiconductors used in computer circuits, and it's key to Austin's reputation as a tech hub.
According to the Austin Regional Manufacturers Association, 20,820 people in Central Texas are employed by semiconductors, computer and related manufacturers. A new Texas task force is aimed at attracting semiconductor investment into the state. And Samsung has been eying nearby Williamson County for a $17 billion semiconductor factory.
It's also worth looking at how the phrase Silicon Valley started to be used. Like Austin's, it's hard to pinpoint. But it's speculated that East Coast defense contractors first used the phrase when traveling to the Bay Area for business. Another clue on its origins is in the 1970s when technology reporter Dan Hoefler published pieces with the header "Silicon Valley USA" after hearing a marketer use the term.
Laura Lorek, founder of Silicon Hills News— a publication that reports on tech in Austin and San Antonio—is an obvious fan of the phrase. She says she knew she wanted to name the publication that as soon as she saw that the domain name was available.
"Silicon Hills means much more than a comparison to Silicon Valley," Lorek wrote in an email to Austonia. "Central Texas is about silicon. Austin has decades of expertise as a chip manufacturer."
"The phrase 'Silicon Hills' communicates sophistication to anyone who knows about the roots of the technology industry," Lorek said. "The influence of the semiconductor industry laid the foundation for all the tech that has followed."
The phrase may be a welcome sign for the influx of tech workers flooding in from Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
But protest of the term is perhaps just the scratching the surface on larger feelings of "techlash": rising housing costs, displacement, new tools that sometimes seem more troubling than they do innovative, and a serious lack of workforce diversity. And for decades of residents who want Austin to keep its "weird" instead of emulating the Bay Area, a term so similar to "Silicon Valley" may not be welcome.
"Some people here love the tech industry and some people don't," Lorek said. "Silicon Hills represents change, and a lot of people are uncomfortable with change."
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