I received an interesting article from Realtor® Magazine this morning:
It is encouraging that household formation is returning after the recession, but the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies places much of the blame on an issue I wrote about in Growing Pains ... Land Use in Austin. Land is inherently a limited supply, but the land we have can be used differently, and local land use policies and permitting processes and costs dramatically affect the ultimate capacity and cost of the housing that gets built.
That does not mean razing older neighborhoods that residents rightfully love, but it can mean that evolutionary changes in building patterns may incorporate different kinds of housing that blend in beautifully and provide at least some more affordable opportunities for new residents. In Austin, drive Speedway from 35th Street to 45th Street (actually, 46th Street to the end), and if you watch carefully you will notice multi-unit structures -- duplexes, adapted houses with multiple entries, and low-rise apartments -- that have been there for a very long time and that fit in very nicely. Drive Enfield west of Exposition Blvd and you'll see the same. Explore Hyde Park and Tarrytown further and you'll find that the character of those older neighborhoods (and many others) is largely because of the mix of such properties, not in spite of them. Those neighborhoods could not be built under Austin's land development code adopted in 1983.
In the case of Austin and nearby suburbs, we are fortunate that median family income is higher than in some other cities, but rent is still more accessible than home ownership in much of the metro area. See Housing affordability in the Austin area for some recent numbers.