Business & Economy

Austin, the fastest-growing US city, confronts downside of boom

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

Austin, Apr 9 (EFE).- This state capital in the Texas Hill County has grown faster than any other city in the United States in recent years, thanks largely to the presence of tech giants in search of lower costs and a more laid-back atmosphere.

Austin gained more than 567,000 new residents between 2010 and 2020 and the accompanying increase in traffic and squeeze on the supply of affordable housing have taken a toll on both natives and newcomers who have not shared in the bonanza.

“When I moved here I thought I’ll just be here for a couple of months. But initially it felt quiet and peaceful and big skies, lots of sun, so I was kind of like yeah, this is pretty good,” Joey Hirsh, a tech worker who fled the tumult and high rents of New York four years ago.

Google, which opened an office in Austin in 2007, moved last summer into the 35-floor Block 185 building that crowns the city’s skyline, while electric car pioneer Tesla inaugurated on Thursday a new factory in the Texan capital.

And a new Apple Inc. campus on the city’s north side will open with 5,000 employees.

“An established affordable destination for Millennial tech workers, Austin has the lowest annual tech company operating costs and the third lowest average apartment rent among the top 10 US tech talent markets,” CBRE Group, a real estate services firm, said in a July 2021 report.

While Austin ranked seventh in CBRE’s 2021 Scoring Tech Talent rating, behind cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Washington and New York, Californians and New Yorkers continue to flock to Texas.

Collier Gray, an Austin native who works with Hirsh in a crypto-money startup, is unhappy with some of the changes he found on returning to his hometown after years living in the northeastern US.

Besides higher housing costs and more traffic on the roads, Gray complains that he can no longer get a table at any of his favorite restaurants.

Not far from their office, one sees posters with the image of a man in a suit and in place of his head is a television screen with the message: STOP Moving to AUSTIN.

The boom has driven some Austin residents to leave.

Figures compiled by Move, a website that tracks population flows inside the US, show that while Texas was second only to Florida in the number of newcomers in 2021, the Lone Star state was also No. 2 behind California in out-migration.

As much as he has come to love Austin, Hirsh, who says he can’t afford to buy a house here, acknowledges that he may have to think about moving to a city that is not quite as “cool” if the pace of change here continues to accelerate. EFE


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