The median home price in the city of Austin reached an all-time high of $566,500 in May, jumping nearly 35% year-over-year, according to the Austin Board of Realtors' latest market report.
"Austin's housing market has become one of the most competitive markets in the U.S.," ABoR President Susan Horton said. "As new companies relocate to Austin and the city's popularity draws in new residents, the sheer demand for housing has created a critical inventory shortage, reinforcing that affordability and accessibility to housing across our region is a real concern and should be a top priority for local leaders."
Labor shortages and rising construction costs are also driving up prices—and pricing out prospective buyers.
Strong demand and double-digit price increases are not limited to the city of Austin. The five-county Austin metro also saw its median home price reach an all-time high of $465,000 in May, according to the market report. The median home price in Travis County increased 41% year-over-year to $550,000. In Williamson County, it increased 50% to $435,000. And in Hays County it increased 42.5% to $380,000.
Nora Linares-Moeller, executive director of the nonprofit HousingWorks Austin, said the housing market is already prohibitively expensive for many Austiniites. "The solution here is to be strategic about placing lower-priced homes and rentals in all parts of the city and urge our city's leaders to continue to make affordability a priority," she said.
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The City of Austin law department has more than 100 attorneys and staff. Yet when time came to litigate a new land use proposal last year, the city turned to an outside firm. That decision has so far cost the city $119,583 in a hitherto fruitless lawsuit.
Financial records reviewed by The Austin Bulldog show that the city paid that amount to the firm Scott Douglass & McConnico LLP, mostly for attorney Jane Webre, who charged $480 an hour.
Read the full story at The Austin Bulldog.
Early voting begins Thursday and runs through Friday, Dec. 11 for the Dec. 15 runoff election.
Here's everything you need to know before you vote, including which races are on the ballot and where to cast yours.
In Texas, candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to be elected. In races where the top candidate only receives a plurality of votes, a runoff is held.
During the Nov. 3 election, four local races prompted runoffs: those for Austin City Council's Districts 6 and 10 and Austin ISD's District 5 and At-large Place 8.
Early voters can cast their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. A list of early polling places can be found here.
The two most closely followed local races are on Austin City Council, where two incumbents face conservative challengers. City council seats are nonpartisan, although all current members are affiliated with the Democratic Party.
Flannigan won more than 40% of the votes during the Nov. 3 election, compared to Kelly's 33%.
Flannigan's platform includes plans to address the pandemic, Austin's affordability crisis, traffic congestion and public safety reform. As a council member, he voted in favor of cutting the Austin Police Department's budget and other police reforms; overturning the city's camping ban; and Project Connect, a $7.1 billion transit system overhaul.
Kelly is a client care manager who ran against Flannigan in 2014 and opposes recent cuts to the police department budget and council's decision to overturn the city's camping ban. Her endorsements include Travis County GOP Chairperson Matt Mackowiak and former Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair.
Last month, Flannigan was accosted by members of the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders motorcycle group, of which at least one member had a "white power" symbol on their bike, according to his campaign.
This is the harassment my opponents think is ok... this is the attacks and intimidation my opponents think is ok.… https://t.co/MIpB7FdQck— Jimmy Flannigan (@Jimmy Flannigan)1605994585.0
Flannigan decried the harassment and his opponent's refusal to disavow the group. "This style of political intimidation will continue if it wins elections," he told Austonia, linking the incident to another one that occurred in early November, when Kelly was photographed with members of the Wind Therapy Freedom Riders, supporters of President Donald Trump, APD officers and protesters who displayed white supremacist hand signals.
The city of Austin and League of Women Voters Austin Area co-hosted a candidate forum on Nov. 30, which can be viewed here.
Alter faced six challengers during the Nov. 3 election and received the most votes, with 34% cast in her favor. She describes herself as a progressive Democrat and has spent her time on council advocating for preservationist land use policies and parks. She voted to cut APD's budget but opposed its decision to overturn the camping ban.
Virden, a real estate broker and general contractor, earned 25% of the vote last month. She opposes Project Connect, council's decision to overturn the camping ban and any effort to defund the police.
Alter's husband, University of Texas at Austin professor Jeremy Suri, appeared to call Virden unqualified and racist in a tweet on Tuesday, prompting the candidate to respond that he was "classless."
I guess, when backed into a corner, Alison Alter will have her husband claim I'm a racist instead of talking about… https://t.co/8Adc2zsrjj— Jennifer Virden for Austin City Council D10 (@Jennifer Virden for Austin City Council D10)1606872542.0
The Nov. 30 candidate forum can be viewed here.
Election Day is Tuesday, Dec. 15. A list of polling places can be found here; they will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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The land use code has been a controversial subject, as it determines how land can be used in the city, including the types, sizes and locations of new buildings.
As the Nov. 3 election approaches, many Austin City Council candidates are taking a stance on what to do with the code. We asked Austonia newsletter readers if they supported the current draft, and the majority voted "No."
Of the 60 readers who responded, 90% voted against the current draft of the code. Opponents commented that they disapprove of increased density.
"They are changing land codes with intention of making more affordable homes but that isn't really what it does. In our neighborhood, builders can take lots, make more dense housing, but then just give money into a fund for affordable hous[ing]... thus creating more dense neighborhoods without creating more affordable housing. ... So we feel the pain with more traffic, etc., but doesn't actually make it more affordable for this neighborhood."
On the other hand, 10% voted in favor of the current draft. Some readers wrote that increased density is a good thing.
"We need to find ways for more people to live in the city. This means finding ways to fit more than strip malls and single family homes in as many neighborhoods as possible. I would like the [land development code] to change even *more* than what's proposed but I also believe incrementalism is the name of the game."
Next week, you can expect a story from Austonia about the land-use code.
Want to participate in future polls? Weekly polls are only accessible to Austonia's newsletter subscribers. Sign up below, before the next poll on Wednesday.