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Austin expands program to help cost-burdened tenants

Almost half of city’s renters struggle to pay

Almost half of Austin’s tenants struggle with affordability, according to a new report from national rental site Apartment List. The study, based on U.S. Census Bureau data, finds that 49.3 of renters are “cost burdened”—meaning they spend more than 30 percent of household monthly income on rent.

That number has increased by 42,742 people since 2008, according to the report—putting the percentage of cost-burdened Austinites close to that of the country as a whole, 49.7 percent. The study clocks monthly rent in Austin as growing 28 percent between 2008 and 2018; renters’s median annual income, meanwhile, grew 23 percent during that time, according to the report.

Of Austin residents in the Apartment List study, 23.2 percent were found to be “severely” cost-burdened, meaning that rent costs at least half as much as family income. The study pegs 2018 median monthly rent in Austin at $1,307 and the median annual income for renters at $51,442.

City program increases affordable housing

While the number of residents who struggle to pay for housing is on the rise in Austin, KXAN reported last week that the city will increase the amount of affordable and deeply affordable housing available in the next year, adding 60,000 affordable units overall to the city’s inventory.

According to KXAN, residents with low incomes will be able to receive larger amounts of rental assistance than they got before from the city’s Neighborhood Housing and Community Development department. The city’s new budget allocates “several million dollars” in one-time funds, KXAN reports, with $5 million from the Housing Trust Fund department designated “to subsidize housing for the most vulnerable people in Austin”—people earning 30 percent or less of median family income.

Who qualifies for assistance?

The city uses the following numbers for median annual family income in 2019. (Unlike the Apartment List study above, it includes all resident incomes, not just that of renters).

  • One-person household: $67,150
  • Two-person household: $76,700
  • Three-person household: $86,300
  • Four-person household: $95,900
  • Five-person household: $103,550

NHCD helps fund rent for those making around 50 percent MFI or less (i.e., $33,150 for a one-person household, $37,850 for a two-person household, $42,600 for a three-person household, and $47,300 for a four-person household).

The department also helps fund mortgages for people who make 80 percent or less of the city’s MFI ($52,850 for a one-person household, $60,400 for a two-person household, $67,950 for a three-person household, and $75,500 for a four-person household).