Seton CEO: Affordability Impacts Workers at All Wage Levels

June 27, 2017 by Kate Harrington

At a recent Real Estate Council of Austin luncheon Jesus Garza, CEO of Seton Healthcare Family, outlined just how serious Austin’s affordability problem is: even surgeons are passing on Austin because of housing prices.

During the event Garza described how Seton has had a difficult time recruiting workers – including two surgeons Seton hoped to hire from Dallas.

“Once they compared the price of housing compared to their salary, they turned down the position and decided to stay in Dallas,” Garza said.

Eldon Rude, principal of 360 Real Estate Analytics, and Mandy De Mayo, executive director of HousingWorks Austin also took part in the forum. According to data from 360 Real Estate Analytics, the median family income in Austin has risen from $39,400 in 1990 to $78,300 in 2016. But housing costs have outstripped those wage gains. Median home prices were $73,000 in 1990 and by 2016 reached $305,000 in the Austin MSA. That’s a 379 percent increase.

The region’s population is growing, too, which means greater demand for limited housing stock. The Austin MSA is on track to reach 3 million residents by 2030; it’s currently at 2.1 million, with 400,000 added just since 2010.

“But we’ve only added a fourth of the housing needed for that,” Garza said. “Now you have a lot of dollars bidding up prices on too few properties. We have to find ways to get more affordable housing on the streets.”

Garza suggested that employee-subsidized housing may have to become part of the solution. And Garza and De Mayo both discussed the role CodeNEXT could play in helping to increase affordable housing stock in Austin.

“Being at the table in important policy conversations like CodeNEXT, that is crucial,” said DeMayo.

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.