The wage gap between Austin's highest-paid workers and everyone else is exacerbating its housing affordability crisis. 

Unemployment figures have reached record lows across the nation, which (for now) includes Texas, leading to more options and higher wages for some workers. That's been especially true during Austin's tech rush, with some of the world's largest companies in those fields establishing a major presence, even as remote work became a popular option in many cities.

While Austin's employment market is robust for some, however, high mortgage interest rates and inflation have already made it impossible for many to even think about buying a home. Locally, there are only seven growing professions that pay enough for its ranks to be able to swing it with relative ease, according to a recent study by real-estate listings and analytics company StorageCafe. 

The national study matched the 58 fastest-growing careers in the country with cities where workers in high-paying professions are likely to be able to afford a home. Ohio was the most affordable state for home-buying across those professions; Scranton, Penn., and Syracuse, New York, were second and third on the list of cities.

Austin income and housing-cost averages

Austin didn't crack the top 20 on that list — or any of the study's lists of cities where top earners can afford homes easily. Average salaries in Austin are around $69,000 per year, according to the study, while average home prices are $547,000. Qualifying for a mortgage at that price would require an income of $93,912 on average. Across all professions, buyers would need eight years to save for down payment, StorageCafe reports.

The study limited the professions in its affordability rankings to those who earn enough to spend no more than 30 percent of their income on mortgage payments. Down payments were assumed to be 20 percent of the cost of the average home in their area, and people in qualifying professions needed to be able to save that amount in no more than five years, using a maximum of 20 percent of their salary.

The state of the tech salary

Austin tech workers saw an average salary increase of about 5 percent between 2021 and 2022 — down from the 9 percent seen the previous year — according to a new report by tech jobs site Hired.

That study puts the average salary for Austin area tech workers overall at $157,612 per year — the fifth highest in the nation. The top four are San Francisco ($174,063), ($168,069), New York ($161,128), and Boston ($158,548). 

Who can afford a mortgage in Austin

Austin IT professionals, whose numbers in the city rose almost 30 percent in the past decade and who earn an annual average salary of $96,000 annually, would need more than five years to save the down payment, the Storage Cafe study reports. Engineers in Austin, who earn an average of $111,000 per year, would also need about five years to save that amount.

Austin workers in mathematical science — a sector that doubled the number of employees in the past decade in the area — earn an average of $118,000 and can have money ready for a down payment in 4.6 years.

The highest salaries in the Austin metropolitan area are earned by top managers like marketing, finance and sales managers, and legal workers, the StorageCafe study found. With average incomes above $120,000, workers in those professions can save for a down payment in about 3.8 years.