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Austin - Population Growth and Housing Affordability

The study illustrates the change in population density, racial population distribution, and vacant housing in the City of Austin. Further analysis is done to understand the distribution of vacant housing to the population based on race and median family income. The City of Austin is considered the study area, including the Travis and Williamson Counties.


The project uses the U. S. Census data to understand population density, housing units, vacancy status, and median household income to map the population and housing market changes. Comparing the above maps helps to build the narrative of the need for affordable housing projects and mainly focuses on developing those projects.


Introduction

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the 2020 population of the City of Austin is 961,860 persons. The city estimates approximately 170,390 people have been to the Metropolitan region of Austin since 2010. The attempt is to understand the population trends and get some insights into the unprecedented housing crisis in Austin. The 10-year population change chart based on the U. S. Census Bureau reveals that there has been a significant rise in the population of about 21.96%.


"We're critically, critically short on housing. If our city-sanctioned regulations are adding to the high cost of housing in Austin, we need to know that, and we need to fix it," said Harper-Madison.


Research Questions:

  1. Which regions in Austin are favorable for housing the growing diverse population?

  2. What are the reasons for the changing trends in housing affordability?

  3. Is it possible to explore implementing policy changes to the existing housing developments?

Methodology

I am using the population density to understand the settlement pattern of the diverse race and investigating the population's median household income and housing affordability in Austin through data maps. Spatial analysis of housing proposals through affordable housing inventory data will highlight the potential for developing future housing developments in the city.











All the data sets are projected to NAD_1983_2011_StatePlane_Texas_Central_FIPS_4203_Ft since the data frame focuses on the data specific to the Central region of Texas using the Project Data Management tool available on Toolbox. The population density data frame is created by the population layer normalized with the area field of Austin. The racial distribution across the City of Austin is analyzed using the White, Black, and Asian population normalized with the area field.


Downloaded the following information:


  • Shapefile for the City of Austin, U.S Census shapefile by County, 2020 and 2010

  • Interstate Highway network from the Texas Department of Transportation website

  • U.S. Census data through Social Explorer to download the total population and area for Travis, Williamson, and Hays County in Texas (2020 and 2010).

  • Affordable Housing Inventory prepared for the year 2021 by the City of Austin, Texas.


A hotspot analysis tool measures the intensity of high or low attribute values within a given polygon feature. The tool produces a Z-score and a p-value for each polygon, in this case, for each census tract.






Z-scores indicate whether census tracts with high or low values are clustered spatially. To be a statistically significant hot spot, a census tract with a high value will be surrounded by other census tracts with high values. The statistically significant z-score is produced when the clustering is too significant to result from random chance. For statistically significant positive z-scores, a larger z-score indicates a more intense clustering of high values: a hot spot. Similarly, a lower negative z-score indicates a more intense clustering of low values: a cold spot. Areas identify hot spots with high values clustered together, and areas identify cold spots with low values.






Findings

The average household size of the City of Austin's population density has concentrated along the central region and has expanded further along the northern region.


The average household size in Texas is 3.46. I am considering the state household size for the study area as four people per household. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has fixed the eligibility criteria for the 2021 affordable housing program for people with less than 80% of the City's Median Family Income. The average 80% median household income of a four-person family in Austin is $78,100. The lowest income of a four-person household is making $29,300 per year, almost earning less than $15 an hour, which imposes the need for more affordable rental housing. But the supply of affordable housing for the rental is far less than required.


The City of Austin encourages developers to build affordable housing projects through three primary methods. Three-quarters of Austin's housing projects offer Developer incentives to increase the density rather than the allocated land use density to promote affordability. The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) Program also aids the affordable housing program to 619 out of the 2200 units.


Only 32% of units in the affordable housing program are completed and available for occupancy. Out of the 2200 affordable housing units, 903 are expired under the affordability program, which is 41% of the total affordable housing. The


Discussion

The I35, major, and minor roads data present the reason for access for the increasing population density along these corridors. The analysis map reveals the evident segregation of the diverse population in Travis County. Irrespective of the increasing population density in the central region of Travis County, the number of vacant housing units is rising in the same region.


This indicates the lack of affordability of housing for the growing population. Further analysis of median household income, rental, and property values can add more insights to understanding Austin's lack of affordable housing.

The vacant housing maps reveal the current higher rate of vacancy along the north and the south parts of Austin while leaving the "eastern crescent" with lesser units for occupancy. The city's eastern part is considered to be the low-paid and vulnerable population of the City of Austin. The central east requires more housing developments to meet its growing needs. The new Giga Texas factory in the eastern region raises the question of housing the high-paid population in this region. Further analysis could be done by integrating the American Community Survey data with the affordable housing inventory data.

Limitations

There is a lack of a comprehensive data set and variables to associate the City of Austin's affordable housing inventory with the building footprint shapefile.

● Not an ideal data set

● Missing/non-included variables

● Missing building age and construction type variables


Conclusion

Parts of East Austin should be considered for future affordable housing developments. The analytical maps of the population by race reveal the black population's settlement along the city's east part. The concentration of the black population overlaps with the lower median family income groups eligible for the City of Austin's affordable housing program.


The varying criteria of median family income by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and inflation play a critical role in determining housing affordability. Even though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development updates these criteria every year based on the cost of living of the U.S. cities, it is high time to consider the diverse population and their change in income which are very critical for housing the vulnerable population.

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