Meta Expands Texas Presence with Temple Data Center

As the burdensome weight of the pandemic hit the country, the city of Austin appeared to become a beacon of opportunity for home workers and city dwellers in the United States. From 2010-2020 — a decade in which Tesla CEO Elon Musk, countless Californians, and dozens of tech startups flocked to the burgeoning city — the metro’s population grew by nearly a third, becoming the nation’s fastest-growing major metro.

But as quickly as some piled up, others seem to trickle out. Leases are coming to an end for many, and some longtime Austinites are considering leaving their homes for the first time in years as apartment complexes respond to rising demand with record high rents and renewal rates.

According to Redfin, average monthly rents rose more than in any U.S. city except Portland from January 2021-2022. The 35% increase represented a national trend: 10 of the US cities surveyed saw rents rise more than 30%, while only two cities saw a year-over-year decline.

When Katera Berent moved into her first South Congress apartment, she lived comfortably on $1,600 a month. But that turned out to be for the best before she made the move to Denver.

“By the time I left, I had to live in a place that was literally falling apart and also hugely unsafe for almost the same amount after utilities and fees,” Berent said. “Rent (in Denver) is crazy too, but not nearly as bad as Austin.”

She’s not alone: ​​Sites like Nextdoor have formed community groups specifically to discuss looming fears of rent increases and affordable subway housing.

(Austin/Nextdoor rental community)

(Austin/Nextdoor rental community)

It poses a problem for both recent moves and old Austinites. Sherry Ricker, who has lived in one of the AMLI apartment complexes in Austin for 10 years, is one of many who was shocked to see that they can no longer afford the places they’ve called home for decades.

“My co-tenants and I are being pushed out,” Ricker told Austonia. “We have received notices of rent increases ranging from $400-$800 per month. My increase is a 20% increase from (the) previous year…I don’t understand how they expect fixed income people to see such increases absorb.”

And the hot topic of affordability (or lack thereof) has spilled over into the housing market, too, with median subway home prices hitting an all-time high of nearly $500,000 in February.

Lori Mellinger, who has been renting a duplex in Austin since October 2020, felt the effects of the burgeoning housing market firsthand when she went home one day and saw a For Sale sign in her yard.

With a moving deadline of May 31 (the duplex has already been sold), the odds are stacked against her: As a former incarcerated person, she faces discrimination based on her criminal record and rising rent.

“A criminal record is a huge barrier for many of us in a city that says it’s all about a second chance,” Mellinger said. “There are a lot of legal jobs for the formerly incarcerated (in Austin) if we know how to maneuver that, which brings us to Austin, the toughest housing market in the state…what they have for employers, they certainly don’t have for tenants.”

Mellinger doesn’t know what to do if she can’t find a spot in time, but she knows that one day she might have to get off the subway if prices keep going up.

Even with record-breaking rents, Austin is still seen as a cheaper refuge for tech workers, Californians and others from even more expensive subways.

But Austin’s rapid growth has already hinted at a flatter future. In 2021, arriving U-Hauls made up just 50.4% of one-way trips in Austin, meaning roughly the same number of people trickling into the Texas capital are starting to leave.

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