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Austin’s need for low-cost housing rises with Tesla

“When I bought that land 12, 13 years ago, I remember everyone saying, ‘Gosh, that’s not a good part of town,’ ” said Scott Roberts, CEO of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Roberts Communities, which has developed Oak Ranch, two other mobile home parks in the region and a cluster of tiny homes around an organic farm. “Now, one of the highest-appreciated sub-markets of Austin is Del Valle, and that whole thing is 100 percent attributed to Elon Musk.”

Tesla’s $1 billion factory will be the crown jewel of the automaker’s U.S. manufacturing operations, producing the Model Y sedan, the forthcoming Cybertruck and batteries. While some high-end executive jobs will no doubt follow the relocation of Tesla’s headquarters to Austin, the company has promised more than 5,000 and up to 10,000 “middle-skill” jobs at the factory.

But, with average annual salaries planned at just less than $50,000 for assembly-line workers, it’s unclear how all those people will be able to afford a home in Austin.

“How is a $47,000-a-year person that has kids, and all of the costs associated with that, going to buy a $500,000 house?” Roberts asked. “They can’t.”

Housing prices have soared in Austin for some of the same reasons they have across the U.S.: low interest rates, a lack of construction and buyers flush with cash. And like elsewhere, the creation of affordable dwellings just hasn’t kept up with demand over decades.

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