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'When you have heavy demand, people moving in, supply is limited' | More growth means more affordability issues in Austin

The Downtown Austin Alliance's 2023 State of Downtown Report includes a plan to address affordability concerns.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin skyline seems to grow bigger every single day. The Downtown Austin Alliance's newly-released 2023 State of Downtown report shows that Austin, the nation's 11th-largest city, is the fastest-growing economy in the U.S., trailing only the tech behemoth San Francisco Bay area.

However, with more growth come more affordability challenges.

"When you have heavy demand, people moving in, supply is limited, [and] prices go up,” said Dewitt Peart, president and CEO of the Downtown Austin Alliance.

The rapid growth of people moving to Austin has put a strain on the downtown area.

"There's a large demand for people locating here, both businesses and workers, and so that demand really puts pressure on the economy,” Peart said.

Just this week, Austin fell to No. 40 on the U.S. News and World Report's list of best places to live in the U.S. It's a sharp drop from the No.1 spot the city held just a few years ago.

The main reason for the drop? Affordability.

"I noticed a lot of my friends actually leaving not just Austin, but Texas in general, just because of how expensive it is,” Austin resident Ben Houston said.

The Downtown Austin Alliance says by 2040, Downtown Austin will double in size with all of the planned development. 

With more buildings and people moving into the city, some Austinites are worried about the cost of living continuing to increase.

"If the cost of living keeps going up, I'll never be able to afford a house,” resident Alex Gomez said. “It’s going to be a lot harder to live here, that's for sure.”

But the Downtown Austin Alliance said there are some ways to make the city more affordable. One is to have the housing supply meet the demand of people moving here, and the other is to reduce transportation costs.

"If you could take a vehicle out of the equation for people's commutes, or if people can walk to work, that's going to be much more affordable,” Peart said.

In the alliance's new report, it outlined a strategic plan to address these affordability challenges in the next five years. Along with improving mobility of the city and cultivating a more diverse downtown, the alliance said it's important to preserve what's unique to Austin.

"We really want to keep the vibe alive,” Peart said. “That's what Austin is known for. That's the brand. And so, part of our plan is to really enhance that over the next five years."

The Downtown Austin Alliance plans to "keep the vibe alive" by preserving live music venues and other places that attract plenty of people to the downtown area.

"We're going to spend a lot of time on art, culture and music, making sure people feel that they can come downtown and enjoy all of that, affordably,” Peart said.

If that is accomplished, a thriving downtown is in the near future.

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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