UT should build affordable faculty housing

Adam Cherian, Columnist

It is no secret that the cost of living is skyrocketing in Austin. In 2022, there’s been an unprecedented increase in the cost of living across the country, with Austin being one of the worst offenders. With inflation hitting a 40-year high, it is time for UT to recognize that high rent prices present an issue for everyone in the Longhorn community, including faculty.

 

UT should build affordable housing for faculty to offset the rising costs of housing in Austin.

 

The continuously increasing cost of living  is a controversial issue. Recent University hires and even professors that have been working at UT for a while are starting to feel the pinch of living in Austin. With more people moving to Austin, many feel they are being forced out of their homes.

 

“Everybody wants to live in Austin. That’s Austin’s profit,” journalism professor John Schwartz said. “But I do think people say, ‘I would love to live in Austin, but I don’t think I can afford it.’”

 

This is a big issue when considering that many of UT’s most essential faculty members could not afford to live in Austin if they wished. Considering that the lowest wage a professor makes at UT is around $65,000 a year, and the average rent in Austin is around $1700 per month, the prospect of living in Austin is a pipe dream for some.

 

The University recognizes this. In a recent statement from Jay Hartzell, he acknowledges the challenges of living in Austin and assures that the University is working on a solution.

 

“Beyond compensation and talent management initiatives, we know that housing costs continue to create significant financial pressure for our employees,” Hartzell said. “Many of you completed the housing survey we conducted this past fall, and those inputs have helped inform our plans as we look for new and innovative solutions to help address this challenge.”

 

Though the acknowledgement of hard times is nice, it does not guarantee a solution to the housing crisis. The Austin housing crisis is rapidly changing, and more and more faculty will have to make the choice between commuting from Austin suburbs or not accepting a job at the UT.

 

UT can fix this by contracting large affordable housing units. A way to lease apartments for cheaper rates than what private contractors are offering would be a great solution to the housing crisis for faculty. 

 

Columbia University already offers a similar option for their professors. They provide subsidized housing for their faculty, tenured or not. The rising cost of living with no current solution does not incentivize new and talented professors to come work for the University.

The Austin housing market is extremely hot at the moment. If UT wants to be competitive with other universities, it needs to ensure that talent is not lost because of how expensive it is to live here. 

“(Housing costs are) driving people away from opportunities,” Schwartz said. “It’s making housing so expensive that even well above minimum wage is not a living wage.”

The cost of living is currently rising everywhere, and other college towns will soon face similar challenges as UT. If UT wants to get ahead of the curve, they need to make affordable housing for faculty.

Cherian is a journalism junior from Round Rock, TX.