Why is Austin so expensive? Thank the city council.

Austin is in the midst of an affordability crisis. Residents can no longer pay the increasing cost of living, and it’s harder to find affordable housing. Many are forced to move out of the city. The city government recognizes this crisis. They don’t recognize that they are actually the ones who have created it.

There are two significant causes of this unaffordability: taxes and fees. The city has decided to solve this affordability problem by taking even more money from residents and driving up prices.

It’s as backwards as it sounds, but it’s been the exact result of the city’s decisions.

On taxes: the city is forcing residents to pay more every year. Property taxes for the average homeowner have gone up 80 percent in the last ten years, and are expected to continue rising. That means less money in all residents’ pockets.

On fees: the city is forcing business and home developers to pay monstrous amounts because of countless regulations and requirements. Increased development costs mean increased prices when residents try to purchase anything.

“Every regulation the city does just adds another layer of cost to what would be an affordable house otherwise,” said Donovan Davis, president of local firm Danze and Davis Architects. “What used to cost maybe $75 for us to do a site plan in Austin now costs over $2,000 because of the amount of time it takes to do all those regulations that we do.”

In Austin, city fees on a four-story apartment complex could cost a developer more than $1 million, as evidenced by PolitiFact Texas. By comparison, in Dallas the fees could be more like $120,000.

Developers in Austin get plundered by the city for simply wanting to construct a building. For a developer to make up the loss, prices must go up. This doesn’t just apply to homes, but every single building—grocery stores, restaurants, apartment complexes, convenience stores, you name it.

On top of that, when a business does gets built, the city then taxes it and increasingly taxes it, forcing prices to go up even further.

So the city keeps taking more from businesses, and more from residents. The result has left Austinites with less money to afford high prices surrounding them.

Picture it like this: imagine having $100, and wanting to buy a $500 home. Now picture the city taking more of your paycheck and also forcing more costs on the home builder. Suddenly, you only have $70 remaining, and the home now costs $600.

It’s a disastrous double whammy. And it’s exactly what’s currently happening in Austin.

For Austin to become affordable and prosperous, the city council must make different decisions, because the policies they’ve enacted thus far have wreaked havoc on residents, particularly those of lower income.

The city must stop raising taxes. They spend almost $4,100 per Austinite, 75 percent more than any other big city in Texas. They also waste an enormous amount of the money they do spend.

The city must stop the fees. The solar-ready requirement, insect screen requirement, development fees, Commercial Building Plan Review fee, minimum lot sizes, minimum site areas, height limits, visibility requirement—countless regulations are suffocating and driving up prices on all residents.

If the city continues these costly policies, the same consequences will continue.

If residents want different results, they must contact their council members or elect different leadership.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.