CULTUREMAP - Feeling priced out of Austin? It's not your imagination — Zillow recently calculated that a house payment in the Capital City takes a 20.3 percent chunk out of residents' income.

That makes Austin proper the most cost-burdened city in the Austin metro area, but even in this expensive market you can still find pockets of affordability, if you're willing to put up with a few predictable trade-offs, such as fewer amenities and longer commutes.

Zillow determined that the metro-level mortgage burden for the United States as a whole is 14.6 percent, which is less than the 15.9 percent burden for Austin as a metro area. But a roughly 20-mile drive north yields housing prices that are a little gentler on your bank account. Round Rock emerges as the local pocket with the smallest mortgage burden, at only 13 percent.

A good portion of the study focuses on the seemingly out-of-control West Coast markets, where mortgage payments can eat up as much as 75 percent of a homeowner's paycheck (our condolences, Palo Alto). But it all illustrates how hot spots within popular housing markets have caused runaway housing costs that place significant burdens on the people who live and work there, even as the cities next door remain more affordable.

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