Several times a year, we devote a substantial amount of time on one topic and produce a report intended to represent the best of Farm&City’s knowledge, vision, and concern about that one issue, in a format intended to serve as a guide for decision makers as well as inspiration for advocates.
Four Million Austinites: The Growing Weirder series of reports on the Austin region as part of our 50 Million Texans project
Building outwards instead of upwards is an environmentally disastrous choice. Austin residents of denser areas are responsible for drastically less impervious surface per capita, the financial and environmental footprint of municipal infrastructure is more efficient for compact, connected development, and the redevelopment of wasteful land use within the city means the preservation of hundreds of square miles of Texas pastures, forest, and countryside.
The affordability of a location is normally calculated with only housing costs. However, transportation is the second largest household expense. Throughout Texas, housing and transportation cost around half of typical local incomes. We divided Austin into urban, sub-urban, and rural areas based on population density and compared costs of housing and transportation in these areas as a percentage of typical median income. Bucking conventional wisdom, we found that urban areas of Austin are the most affordable.
Austin is in need of a multiplicity of strategies to address growing affordability and environmental crises. If we fail to responsibly plan for growth, low income communities and people of color will be disproportionally burdened with costs to their quality of life. Building off of successful models throughout the nation, we propose the establishment of an Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Fund to take advantage of the opportunity to make meaningful progress towards an Equitable Austin.