Austin welcomes Tesla’s decision to move its headquarters there, WTVB reports, but there are also some concerns related to housing. I’ll dive into that part momentarily, as I have thoughts I’d like to share on that topic. Mayor Steve Adler said that Tesla fits right in with Austin’s strong, innovative, entrepreneurial, and environmentally focused culture.
Tesla has already brought 5,000 jobs to Austin in 2021. Teslarati noted that according to a report from the Austin Chamber of Commerce, companies that are either expanding or relocating to the city promised to create a total of 20,840 jobs from January to September. There are a total of 150 companies contributing to the growth, and out of all of the companies, Tesla has pledged to create the most jobs this year in Austin.
The Concern Is Housing
This concern was brought up before and has been again. I think that I, as someone who has actually lived on the streets before, can give an informed opinion on the housing crisis and what actually contributes to homelessness. So let’s hold off listing Tesla as the source of the problem and admit the problem stems from those who set the prices.
Tesla’s bringing jobs to the area. The WTVB article said:
“Roberts Communities, a developer for affordable manufactured housing, is hoping to benefit. The company has bought large plots of land just minutes from the Tesla factory and sells houses at around $80,000.
‘Tesla factory workers will receive an average annual salary of $47,000, an income considered low by Travis County’s health and human services division.
“’All those workers will want to live somewhere nice, clean and affordable with their families,’ said Brandon Long, a Roberts Communities sales manager at the local Oak Ranch site.”
First, I will admit that never in my life have I made $47,000/year. Ever. For many who are low income and even living in poverty, that type of income is a dream. It’s considered middle class or upper-middle-class to those who are, like me, formerly homeless.
When I lived in Atlanta, I was either on the streets or living with friends or in random pay-by-the-week hotels hoping to get enough hours in at both of my jobs (in some cases I worked two jobs) just to make it. That aside, the concern in Austin is that the housing cost will go up and price those already living there out of their market. Another concern is that Tesla workers won’t be able to afford to live in the city.
In all honesty and fairness, I can’t dismiss that second concern because I have been there. I know what it’s like and the stress of worrying about bills and rent does affect one’s work.
The Housing Crisis Is Multi-Dimensional And Tesla Can’t Fix It
However, Tesla nor any other company bringing jobs to an area is to blame for this problem — especially if they are paying high wages. If Tesla was paying $9 an hour and giving only 25 hours per week, I’d have an issue. Many retail jobs do this in order to keep from having to offer benefits to full-time employees. This is a real problem and not just in Austin but nationwide.
Austin may be experiencing a housing crisis, but it isn’t alone. The New York Times shared an excellent opinion piece titled “America’s Housing Crisis Is a Choice,” and I fully agree with this statement. The article touched upon the fact that our entire nation is in the throes of a housing crisis and that Americans are running out of affordable places to live. And this was happening before the pandemic. The cause of the housing crisis isn’t a shortage of housing, it’s the shortage of affordable housing.
Although I don’t think we should put the blame fully on Tesla and other companies that bring high-paying jobs to the area, I do think we should encourage these companies to be more compassionate for those cities they are bringing the jobs to. Hire locally, support the local economy, and focus on that community.
In Tesla’s case, it’s already doing this. Tesla is working with Del Valle ISD, Huston-Tillotson University (HT), and Austin Community College to recruit students to work for it. These are awesome things, but I feel that the housing crisis itself is something that federal, state, and local government along with landlords and corporations that lease homes need to come together on to solve.
This is a multidimensional problem that Tesla, Google, or other corporations can’t really solve on their own. If Tesla was to increase that $47,000 annual salary to, let’s say, $150,000, the retail value of the land near Tesla would go up and this would also affect the housing crisis. But if Tesla was to decrease that average of $47,000 to, let’s say, $19,000, which is around $365 per week before taxes, then Tesla would be criticized for paying unlivable wages.
The problem isn’t Tesla. It’s the way our system is set up. And by the way, $19,000 before taxes is more than what I made working in retail.