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Soaring Rents in Austin, Texas by Kaylee Qualls

Soaring Rents in Austin, Texas

by Kaylee Qualls

Texas has recently become a hot spot for people in the United States, especially those from states such as California, Florida, and Illinois, who are seeking to find work opportunities and a better quality of life. However, if they are searching for a break on the cost of living, they will not find it in Austin, Texas. Rent in Austin has soared over the past few years, along with many other cities in Texas. Austin has become known as a city full of young individuals, nightlife, and job opportunities, which has contributed to the growth in population. Due to this growth, supply of housing is down, however demand is up, therefore allowing landlords to take advantage of the situation and profit from charging higher rents.

In Austin, rent rose 48% from May 2021 to May 2022. Other cities in Texas such as Waco and Temple, also saw extreme rent increases of more than 30%. The median rent in the City of Austin is around $2,700. Rent control is nonexistent in Austin, so landlords have the discretion to increase rent by however much they desire.

In Texas, rent regulations are governed by Tex. Loc. Gov’t. Code § 214.902, which preempts rent control. Rent control is not allowed throughout the state and there is not a rent increase limit, which gives landlords the discretion to increase rent by any amount. Cities in Texas can establish rent control if there is a housing emergency due to a disaster, such as a flood, oil spill, earthquake, etc., or if the governor of the city approves rent control. Many tenants in Texas have attempted to implement rent control, however these efforts have not been successful. Tenants in Austin are searching for help and solutions. Rent relief has been an idea that has been thrown around in the state senate, yet “rental relief is still missing”.

Many residents of Austin are concerned with the drastic increases in rent and are worried about their future living situations. Some concerns the severe rent increases have spurred are increased homelessness, residents having to take on additional jobs, cutting of other household costs, and residents being forced out of the communities they prefer because they cannot afford the rent.

Groups such as GAVA, also known as “Go Austin! Vamos! Austin”, have been advocating for the City of Austin to invest more money in organizations that can provide rent relief, utilities, and emergency relief to residents. Some residents have raised the issue of whether the increased rents in Austin can be considered price gouging. Price gouging is illegal during a disaster in Texas. However, it seems that price gouging does not apply in the current situation and cannot be used as a defense for tenants to combat the high rents in Austin.

Tensions will continue to grow between tenants, landlords, and the government, if solutions like rent control and rent relief are not put into action. Tenants will begin to move out of the city in search of affordable rent and living if nothing is done to solve the soaring rent issue in Austin.