In the beginning of February, the U.S. News and World Report ranked Austin, Texas the #1 best place to live in the United States. Some of the factors taken into consideration for this rank were weather, job market, desirability, quality of life, and net migration. Austin is in the heart of Texas, as the state’s capital and the live music capital of the world, so it attracts many people. The desirability comes from the many events Austin has to offer, including Austin City Limits, SXSW, and Zilker Park, which is open all year. As an Austinite, I’ve lived to see the city grow, both physically and culturally. The exponential growth of the city has both positive and negative effects on everyone living in or around the city. As Austin continues to grow, the release of this rank has made Austinites a bit frustrated. It is believed that with information like this, Austin will only attract more people to move here.
A big part of the growing population is due to a large net migration. Residents from cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa, and Philadelphia move to Austin due to the successful job market and other factors. In fact, in 2014 the net migration percentage was 7.8. This means that 7.8% of the Austin population were not born in Austin. This ranked Austin as the #1 net migration metropolitan area in the United States. The growing population has made Austin so diverse, yet so clustered. Growing up in Austin, I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by delicious food, like the tacos on Riverside, and authentic Chinese food in Chinatown, but also by amazing diverse people. Austin is such an open minded city. For example, the thousands of Austinites joining downtown in protest of injustice makes me feel safe within my community.
This is yet another factor for people to continue moving here, and by all means I don’t mind it. But there are some problems that come with this; the first, and the biggest for many, being the growing cost of living. In the past year the average housing cost was calculated to be about $262,000, which is approximately $51,000 more than the national average. In addition to the cost of living, Austin has also had to find new ways to fit people in Austin. In the recent years, the number of apartment complexes has grown in and around the downtown area, and the gentrification of east side neighborhoods is never ending.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time at my great aunt’s house while my parents were at work. I grew up there, it was like a second home. I played with other kids in the neighborhood, but throughout the years I began to notice a change. The cost of living was increasing and it was hard on so many families. Many were bought off their own property and finally decided to move somewhere else. As more and more families left, their old one-story houses I remember would become big two-story fenced houses. This very thing has happened to my great aunt so many times. She raised her eight children in that house and refuses to lose it. Now when I go visit, I see a street filled with nice big houses and in the middle of them all is the small beige house I spent my childhood in. Although I love the changes in Austin, I don’t love the effects it has on the people that have been living here their whole life.
Another big problem in recent years is the congested highway. Oh, how we Austinites love our hour long commutes on I-35 that really should only take about 20 minutes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve stared at the skyline counting down every second until we made it to our destination. I-35 and Mopac are constantly under construction, making traffic even more frustrating. But hey, at least we can laugh everytime someone says “well, at least it’s not taking longer than the I-35 construction work.”
I am proud to be an Austinite, born and raised. I’m proud of the diverse culture the fills the streets, the delicious food, the number of fun activities, and the beauty that is the metropolitan area. With a growing population comes growing city limits, and although things like cost of living and traffic could become more of a problem, I’m still proud to be a part of the best place to live in the United States.