For young families, it all boils down to housing
As someone who thoroughly (and happily) covers the city and county governments, I see various hidden aspects of the community during my day-to-day accounts.
Most of these areas never get reported on, simply because I don’t have the space for them and also I have to cut out any extra jargon that can plague governmental stories.
But the knowledge I receive from countless vocal citizens — side conversations and last-minute “did you hear?” — are what account for the majority of what reporters do. This is what takes place behind the scenes. These are the bones of our stories.
And it’s from these tidbits that I’ve learned one thing about our community: affordable (and attainable) housing is urgent now more than ever, and it’s affecting every sector of life.
Let me ease into it.
First problem: Businesses on Main Street can’t keep help long enough to train properly because people can’t afford to live here and if they can make more where they live, they will work closer to home.
This creates a series of mini-problems. Restaurants may be short-staffed, have limited hours or be forced to close certain days of the week in order to save money. The overall quality of customer service vanishes overnight.
Problem two: Young families who move into town want to start a family of their own but have trouble finding daycare facilities for their young children. These families also have to settle for a smaller home, not because they don’t make good money, but because the market is so competitive, a two-bedroom/one-bath starter home costs no less than $250,000.
From what I’ve discovered, daycares are having trouble maintaining quality care because they can’t afford to pay their employees what they wish they could. The majority of their funds instead goes toward their rent.
If families are having a tough time getting started in this community, what’s going to stop them from venturing into more affordable, neighboring communities? What’s going to stop Fredericksburg from losing most of its owner-occupied residents?
The answer is simple: create a more affordable (and attainable) housing situation.
But this leads to a medium-sized snowball that’s been picking up speed since the conundrum first surfaced.
Third problem: The desire exists, but there’s no one to build the houses.
Labor itself is in a ubiquitous shortage throughout town, partially due to the costs of housing, but not having enough labor to build houses for laborers? That’s just cruel irony.
Since living itself is so expensive in this area, the developers have to contract to get help from out-of-county residents, which just takes the deserved funds away from Gillespie County, and into the county of where the laborer rests their head.
Keep in mind these problems don’t happen every time, they may not even happen the majority of the time, but they are becoming more frequent.
The snowball is growing quicker and a solution must be sought out sooner, rather than later.
Calling it a ripple effect, although cliché, is a fitting definition for what is going on here.
It may not affect you personally, especially if you have a home, but the problem could spill onto your lap, one way or another.
Luckily, thanks to efforts from the city and other government entities, a study is being done to pinpoint an exact need for the type of housing, and in the meantime, a variety of “more attainable” townhomes, apartments and subdivisions are in the works.