Nationwide, average monthly rent in February soared 15% to a record-breaking $1,901 compared to a year earlier, according to online real estate listing site Redfin. However, in Austin, rent increases outpaced the rest of the country by surging 40%, putting the city at the top of Redfin’s list of places with the fastest-rising rent.
Feeling the sticker shock, Texas-based millennials and Gen Zers have taken to social media to air their grievances and joke about higher rent. Last month, one TikTok creator, Kim Vega, posted a clip of someone asking incredulously “$30,000?” with a caption saying, “paying rent for a 1 bed, 1 bath, 750 sq ft apartment near downtown in Austin TX.” She also said she would be moving back in with her parents, but it was unclear whether she was serious. Vega did not respond to a request for comment.
In a similar vein, Katelyn Fletcher—a popular Gen Z TikToker—posted a humorous video that featured her stretching and jumping in front of boxes with the caption, “Packing and prepping to be homeless starting next week cause our rent in Austin just increased from $2,200 to over $4,000.”
Fletcher previously posted a video that showed an email about her rent rising from $2,200 to $4,678, a 113% increase that sparked widespread commiseration among her followers.
“The audacity to write ‘congratulations’ in the email,” one commenter, Myca San Miguel, wrote, referring to the landlord’s message to Fletcher.
“Dude I live in the Austin area and it’s impossible to live here anymore, rent is $2-3k and they want 3x that in income so I need to bring 6k+/month,” another commenter, Alyssa Papke, wrote in response to Fletcher’s post.
Fletcher ultimately moved from her apartment to a new living space.
The cost breakdown for being a renter in Austin
In the first quarter of 2022, the average annual salary in Austin was $74,000, an increase of 0.9% from a year earlier, according to Payscale, a salary data website. A Texas-based individual with $74,000 income can expect to pay an estimated $772 monthly in federal income tax, $382 in Social Security, and about $89 in Medicare—or a total of $1,244, according to job search engine Talent.com. After taxes and withholdings, the monthly pay for that average Texan would be $4,923.
Fletcher did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment on how her salary compared to the average monthly take-home pay in Austin. Assuming an average Texas salary, she would be left with a meager $245 to cover her expenses after paying rent. However, in most cases, the required salary for renters is three times the asking price of the rent. This means that in order for Fletcher to qualify as a new renter, she would have needed to make a minimum of $14,034 monthly, or about $234,000 annually in gross pay. That salary would put Fletcher in the top 5% of household take-home pay in Austin, according to Statistic Atlas, a demographic statistical atlas of the United States.
Homelessness is rising in Austin
In cities where people spend more than 32% of their take-home pay on rent, a spike in homelessness will follow, according to a Zillow report. While homelessness may have been Fletcher’s joking response to surging rent prices, it’s the reality for many Texans. Within the first four months of this year, citizen hotline calls about homeless encampments have risen dramatically. There were 1,471 calls from January to April this year versus 548 over the same period in 2021, as reported by KXAN. The Austin–Travis County region has approximately 18 homeless people per 10,000, about double the statewide rate in Texas and about triple the rate in the greater Houston region, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, as analyzed by Austonia, a Texas-based news organization.
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