Opinion: The HOME Act Will Help Keep Austin Affordable and the American Dream Alive
Affordable housing in great locations helped my immigrant parents thrive in America
When my parents touched down in America after emigrating from China, my father had only his suitcase, the clothes on his back, and $72 in cash.
Fast-forward to today. After attending graduate school and building successful careers, my parents are proud parents and homeowners. In short, they have lived out the American dream.
Although my parents are hard workers, the ability to purchase a home at a reasonable price helped set them on the path to financial stability and success. Had my parents moved to a less affordable city like New York City or San Francisco, our family's story may have gone a different way.
My parents are not unique. Austin is full of hardworking individuals and families who aspire to achieve the American dream. For many, that means owning a house and raising kids in the city of their choice, just like my parents did. But for too many Austinites, that dream is slipping away.
Just last month, KUT reported that you need to earn $180,000 per year to afford a median-priced home in Austin. While I work in finance and can fortunately hope to afford a home one day, too many teachers, health care workers, and service professionals are priced out of something that was once widely available to the middle class.
While Austin has experienced rapid economic growth, soaring housing prices have shut out the people who could benefit the most from the increasing opportunities Austin has to offer. Just this year, a couple I know moved out of Austin because the prospect of home ownership seemed impossible.
But now we have the opportunity to turn the tide and unlock more housing for Austinites of all income levels. Austin City Council Member Leslie Pool's HOME ordinance would allow the construction of three housing units on a single residential lot. This legislation will open up more affordable housing opportunities to Austin's students, retirees, and middle class. HOME takes inspiration from the success of similar policies in Minneapolis and Houston, where housing prices have been tamed, despite stubborn nationwide inflation.
I love Austin. More than just our parks or springs or tacos, we have warmth. Here, strangers at restaurants become great friends. Here, we open our homes and make room for each other. HOME gives us the opportunity to embody those values and build an Austin where no one is left behind.
Austin faces a choice. Let's keep Austin weird while making Austin affordable again. Let's embrace commonsense housing reforms and reject the notion that homeownership is a privilege reserved for the very wealthy. As a daughter of immigrants, I have to believe we can keep the American dream alive in Austin.
Valerie Zhang is a proud Austinite working in the finance industry. Some of her favorite places include Deep Eddy Municipal Pool and the Twin Oaks Branch of the Austin Public Library.