As a happy and proud long-time Austinite, I'm always drawn to news stories about our great city. As I real estate professional, I am especially interested in articles and lists that compare Austin to other areas. The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about a "housing stress indicator" that compares many U.S. cities and their pain and continuing vulnerability in the ongoing real estate downturn:
Of course using different contributing factors might yield different results, but this index looks reasonably fair to me.
It is still true that four states -- California, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada -- were the hardest hit by the downturn, and they remain the most vulnerable in the coming months. Austin ranks 26th out of 49 metropolitan areas listed in that article -- FAR better than the experience of most in those states, better than the national average in housing stress, and better than the Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, and San Antonio metros.
We rank pretty well on housing affordability -- in this study, the percentage of the population spending more than 30% of income on housing. We are among the best cities in terms of unemployment, which helps to provide some cushion against other financial strains. The percentage of Austin/Central Texas residents without health insurance is disappointing, but we're right in the pack with other Sunbelt cities with large immigrant populations. Taking all of this into account, I remain very glad that I have been here during this recession instead of many other places.
I would like to see Austin with an even lower housing stress indicator, but I took a decidedly "non-economic" look at this list and drew one more conclusion. With the exception of Birmingham, Alabama, every other major metro that ranked better than Austin has a major deficiency: they have winter. That's too high a price for me!