by JENNIFER BIUNDO
Call it the tale of three cities.
Kyle officials are trumpeting a new study by the Capital Area Council of Governments showing that theirs is the most affordable city in Central Texas. Meanwhile, San Marcos leaders are fighting claims that their city ranks dead bottom in the same survey. And Buda officials haven’t yet clued into the fact that, had they been included in the game, they would have outranked Kyle in affordability.
Simple – perhaps too simple – in design, the study analyzed median household income as a ratio to median home values in Austin, Cedar Park, Georgetown, Kyle, Leander, Pflugerville, Round Rock and San Marcos.
With a median household income of $70,226 in the 2010 census and a median home value of $144,700, Kyle ranked as the most affordable city in the survey. But the data didn’t include Kyle’s sister city of Buda. With a median income of $87,254 and a median home value of $176,000, Buda actually slides in just south of Kyle in terms of home prices as a percentage of income.
San Marcos, home to Texas State University, ranked last for affordability, with a median household income of $26,627 and a median home value of $122,500.
But city spokesperson Melissa Millecam said that Texas State students weren’t picketing city hall — yet — to complain that they couldn’t afford to get in on the homebuying game.
“There are 32,000 students at Texas State,” Millecam said. “They may have part-time jobs at the mall, but don’t have adult incomes at this point. That’s going to have a big impact on our income numbers. You can compare whatever you want, but I don’t think it’s taken into account the real dynamics of San Marcos.”
Indeed, San Marcos offers a plethora of cheap housing options aimed at college kids who can’t yet legally buy a beer. Including rental properties, according to U.S. Census data, the median monthly housing cost was $766, far lower than the monthly $1,359 paid by Kyle residents or $1,426 shelled out by Buda residents.
Based on those numbers, San Marcos residents spend about 35 percent of their salary on home expenses, compared to 21 percent for Buda residents and 24 percent for Kyle residents.
The study also doesn’t look at other money-sucking necessities like the cost of food or transportation as a function of salary. Though both cities are working to add professional employers, most Kyle and Buda residents commute to jobs in Austin or even San Antonio. With virtually no options for local transit, they can expect to pour more than $2,000 into their gas tanks each year. San Marcos offers more local employment, including part-time jobs for college students at local restaurants and retailers.
Ironically, in recent years Kyle has fought to bring higher-priced homes into the fold. In 2003, concerned by a perceived glut of “starter homes” headed to Kyle, city leaders passed rules requiring new homes to be at least 1,600 square feet on lots of at least 8,190 square feet. The new regulations also required all homes to have 100 percent masonry exteriors and 2.5 car garages. The city successfully fought off a protracted lawsuit by the NAACP, the National Association of Home Builders and the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, which claimed that the changes would increase the average home price by $30,000 and price minorities out of the market.
Still, Kyle officials say that the study is good news for their suburban boom town, which has grown from about 5,000 to nearly 30,000 residents in the last decade.
“This is great news for Kyle and shows that the city council’s goal of keeping Kyle affordable has been right on target,” said Mayor Lucy Johnson. “Economic growth doesn’t have to mean pricing out current residents from their homes. We are proud that our rise in home values has come with better jobs and better opportunities for Kyle’s residents.”
JEN BIUNDO reports for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Free Press and the San Marcos Mercury.Email | Print