What to Do in Austin in March: Brunch, Art Museum, Continental Club
Now he has moved to possibly even sunnier skies in Phoenix, Arizona. Like Austin, Arizona’s capital has seen the pros and cons of rapid growth play out across the city, from corporate headquarters relocating en masse to a booming real estate market and an increase in Californian moves.
Here’s what the two summer towns have (and don’t) have in common:
Both Austin and Phoenix have been among the fastest growing cities in the country over the past decade. (Visit Austin/Facebook) (Visit Phoenix/Facebook)
Austin enjoys a “boomtown” reputation thanks to the recent transplant and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, but with more than 160,000 newcomers migrating to Phoenix from 2010 to 2020, Phoenix takes the cake as the big city to the fastest growing in the United States.
But while Phoenix grew rapidly, the Austin Metro grew faster, with more moves than any other US metro during the same period.
Phoenix is also much larger: while Austin hasn’t quite cracked 1 million residents, more than 1.6 million call the Valley of the Sun home. These are also the most populated capitals in the USA
Both cities have seen an influx of newcomers from all walks of life, according to Anzaldua, which is meeting a lot of new buyers in its high-end appliance business.
“It seems like you don’t meet too many people born and raised in Phoenix,” Anzaldua said. “There are a few, but the majority are new transplants. I mean, people from all over the country are moving here.”
“Don’t do California, my—”
Austin and Phoenix seem to have mixed emotions when it comes to new transplants, many of whom come from big cities in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
And as the West Coast moves east, many movers in both cities are Californians, which has sparked fierce debate in cities from Austin to Boise, Idaho.
Californians represented more than a quarter of new moves in Phoenix in 2020. This was reflected at Arizona State University, where graduate Ivory Thornton said most of her classmates were from the Golden State.
Meanwhile, California was the largest source of migration to Austin outside of other Texas counties from 2015 to 2019. The state seems to have made a lot of enemies – while “Don’t California My Texas” has become a growing mantra in the Lone Star State, the same mantra can to be found on T-shirts in Arizona as well as.
For Thornton, this is largely due to the city’s booming real estate market. Like Austin, the city has seen rent and housing prices soar as wealthier Californians get used to more expensive homes to buy out “cheap” homes in other cities.
“I was in the process of buying a townhouse, but with all the people moving out of California, the prices skyrocketed,” Thornton said. “Houses that used to cost $200,000 to $300,000 now cost $600,000 to $700,000, so no one can afford to buy and now everyone has to rent.”
Housing, the rent goes up, up, up
Austin and Phoenix are former cheap-housing havens that have seen huge real estate amid the pandemic.
The average number of homes in Phoenix increased by more than $100,000 from January 2020 to 2021, according to Realtor.com, and now sit at $457,000. That’s nearly identical to Metro Austin, which saw its median housing price jump more than 30% to $450,000 over the same period.
The houses are recovered quickly. Anzaldua said his friend recently sold his house for $45,000 above the asking price in just one day, as both cities see demand outpace supply.
But coming as a blessing for home sellers can be a nightmare for buyers and renters.
Thornton said his apartment complex was increasing its renewal rate by $150 and had to allow tenants to pay their rent in installments to avoid eviction. Now a social worker who worked at a homeless shelter, Thornton said she’s seen shelters grow as rental assistance programs and other resources dry up.
“The low-income areas of Phoenix are only expanding because prices are going up, but wages aren’t,” Thornton said. “I think something is going to have to give because there will be a time when people just can’t afford it.”
Roaming and affordability have also become hot topics in Austin, as rent has risen more than any other US tech hub in 2021.
But there’s still hope for less well-off residents of both cities: Both have roughly the same cost of living, which is still close to the U.S. average, and both are seeing significant growth in employment thanks to rapidly growing markets.
While Phoenix is largely focused on tourism and sports, Austin is known for its technology. (Visit Phoenix/Facebook) (PCPA/OneLux)
So why move to Austin or Phoenix?
A major incentive was the booming labor markets: cities stood side by side while two of the Top 3 Job Growth Markets in the United States in July 2021.
As the new sailboat-inspired Google Tower completes construction in downtown Austin, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the city is now more of a tech city than a hippie paradise.
Known as one of the largest emerging tech markets in the United States, Austin has seen record job growth as companies like Tesla and Oracle have moved their headquarters to the city in recent years.
The two join Dell as some of the region’s biggest employers, while other industries, from its massive beer and brewing market to crypto, continue to put Austin in national headlines.
Phoenix is home to a more low-key tech scene, but software jobs remain increased by more than 20% over the past five years. Instead of tech startups and blockchain companies, Phoenix focuses more on manufacturing, real estate, and tourism.
Tourism and business services now constitute almost 77% of total metro employment. Meanwhile, the region’s warm weather has made Phoenix a sports center: it is one of the few cities with all four major league sports teams (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL) and could face Austin FC with a The MLS team on its own very soon.
It is also the only city in the country with a spring training MLB league and also hosts professional golf courses and NASCAR racing.
What is the difference?
Both Austin and Phoenix are known for their outdoor attractions. (Visit Austin/Facebook) (Visit Phoenix/Facebook)
Each city attracts newcomers for similar reasons, although there are some key differences.
If Austin is hot, Phoenix is even hotter, with average high temperatures in the 100s all summer. Austin’s more humid heat brings more than 20 more inches of rain per year and powers many water activities at Lady Bird Lake or any local swimming hole.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, Phoenix has its own hosts in Town Lake and many more hiking trails than Austin, offering picturesque views of the Sonoran Desert. Both towns have earned a reputation as an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
And although both cities are among the youngest in the United States, Austin has a much livelier nightlife. Part of the golden age of the “live music capital” that Anzaldua remembers remains, and newcomers can find plenty to do in the city’s diverse arts and music scene.
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