Is Austin’s Reign as Leader of Texas Growth Ending?
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January is when all various institutes, companies, and business-minded publications do an annual list-dump of “best cities for x” so everyone can keep track of where they should or shouldn’t be living in the new year. Thanks in part to these lists, Texas has enjoyed major bragging rights over the past few years for having one of the lowest state unemployment rates, a comparatively low cost of living, and for boasting some of the country’s fast growing cities. Within the state, Austin has been at or near the top of many of these surveys, something that’s been a point of both great pride and great gripes for the city’s residents.
But it could be time for an ego-check. Austin’s been pushed out of the number-one slot on a number of lists released this month, and in some cases, was replaced by other Texas cities like Houston or Dallas. Could it be that the Austin boom is on the wane? Only time—or more city ranking lists—will tell.
In the meantime, here’s a List to End All Lists of reasons that suggest that Austin’s grip on the crown as King of Texas Growth could be loosening.
Austin rents are getting expensive
The joke is that Austin is like the San Francisco of the South—a statement perhaps San Franciscans would take umbrage with, but it turns out, has a germ of truth to it. Of course, living in the Texas capital isn’t nearly as expensive as living in the Bay Area, but with average monthly rent climbing above the $1,000 mark, Austin is taking a hit for its affordability issues: in their annual Best Cities for Job Seekers list, NerdWallet ranked Austin number six—down from last year’s top slot—in part for its increased cost of living.
You might be better off finding a job in the DFW area
While NerdWallet’s findings kept Austin in the top ten, WalletHub crunched their numbers and determined that Austin ranks number 37 among the country’s 150 most populated cities in best places to find a job. In fact, if you’re looking for a job, it might be best to move to the Metroplex: Plano, Irving, Dallas, Grand Prairie, and Arlington all rank higher on WalletHub’s list, which is based on a combination of socioeconomic environment factors, like time spent working and commuting, and job market factors, like monthly median starting salary. NerdWallet also named Fort Worth the second-best city in America to find a job.
Houston is now growing at a faster rate than Austin
Austinites love to simultaneously brag and complain about the city’s fast growth rate, which has been the highest in the country since 2011(!), according to the Fastest-Growing Cities list released by Forbes. The complaining paid off—the latest rankings saw Houston dethrone Austin from its four-year-long reign in the top spot.
It’s getting harder for young people to live in Austin
Combine the climbing living expenses and less attractive job market, and Austin starts to become less livable for the under-35 crowd. Vocativ, which advertises itself as a dispatch from the Deep Web, released a livabiliy index of the 35 best cities for people under 35 back in December, and Austin came in at number five, below Arlington, where, apparently, “literally everything is cheap.” On Vocativ’s list, Austin lost points for poor demographics, abysmal transportation, and expensive housing. Arlington gained ground for things like cheap groceries, cheap beer, and even cheap marijuana, which was strangely a real factor in the site’s ranking criteria.
It’s easy to forget real life problems, like debt, in Austin
As we noted before, there are lots of Texas mentions on BadCredit’s list of the most financially irresponsible cities. Austin isn’t as indebted as San Antonio, but according to the analysts at BadCredit, Austinites are spending money with relatively reckless abandon. With all the fun things around the city to spend money on, why not take out a second or third credit card? You’ll pay that off eventually, right?