College graduates impacting gentrification in Texas metros, Fed report says

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Lynette Adkins, a real estate agent for Housing Scout and a UT alumna, helps students find apartments in the UT area.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lynette Adkins | Daily Texan Staff

Texas cities are seeing a surge in college graduates living in their urban centers and a possible increase in gentrification as a result, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. 

The report describes gentrification as a change in neighborhoods from an influx of affluent residents. Texas’ four largest cities — Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin — were part of the report.

The college graduate population living within three miles of Austin’s urban center has increased by more than 15% since 2000, according to the report. Allie Fitzpatrick, membership and alumni record coordinator for Texas Exes, said about 145,000 UT graduates currently live in the Austin area.

Luz Villa, Austin resident and 2019 UT graduate, said she has always struggled to find affordable housing and cannot stay in the city much longer with rising housing prices. 

“Buildings were automatically being bought out, and high-rise buildings were being built,” Villa said. “I saw at least five to 10 new apartment buildings replace old, small dwellings in West Campus.”

Urban centers attract college graduates with amenities such as restaurants, nightlife and shops, according to the report. Additionally, many college graduates live in urban centers because the areas are disproportionately concentrated with high-paying jobs, and graduates prefer shorter commutes to work, the report said.

“It’s where you have restaurants, stores, businesses, and it’s very quick for people who work downtown,” said Zohaib Qadri, a 2013 UT graduate. “It’s just so convenient.”

Vulnerable demographic groups, including minorities, low-income residents and residents without college degrees are relocating to suburban areas as they decline in population near urban centers, the report said. 

“You see people being priced out of their homes in neighborhoods that were at one point predominately Latino or African American,” Qadri said. “With new businesses and apartments coming up, people are forced out of areas where they’ve lived their whole lives.”

Kat Callahan, a 2006 UT graduate, said she witnessed her own apartment get replaced with newer buildings.

“I watched as older houses with African American residents turned into nice new houses and mixed developments, and many of the new owners were white,” Callahan said.

Qadri said a lack of affordable housing adds to the burden of tuition for students.

“Once you graduate, you’re left with all this debt from your education and housing,” Qadri said. “It’s not a good place to start fresh out of college and into the workplace.”

Lynette Adkins, a 2019 UT graduate, helps students find housing as a leasing agent for Housing Scout. Adkins said in an email that Austin’s increasing gentrification has made students’ searches for affordable housing more difficult.

“This is the first year I’ve done tours at apartments that have been up to 45 minutes away from UT,” Adkins said. “Housing inequality is forcing students to live farther and farther away from school in order to afford to go here.”

Adkins said Riverside is an example of a recently gentrified area of Austin in which new apartment complexes, shopping centers and offices have been built.

“Riverside and East Austin are two areas I’ve seen gentrified at a very rapid pace in my four years at UT,” Adkins said. “However, every area near downtown Austin is becoming gentrified as more and more people begin moving here, and lower-income residents are pushed out.”