Amazon promised that it would announce the site of its HQ2 facility by the end of 2018. We’re now two months away from that self-imposed deadline, and all we have from the tech giant is its short list of twenty finalist cities, which includes both Austin and Dallas.
Back when the short list was announced ten months ago, Austin was considered one of the top contenders. Our capital, along with Atlanta, faced the shortest betting odds, at 3:1. (Dallas, meanwhile, faced 20:1 odds.) That has since shifted—the current favorite is Northern Virginia, with the same odds Austin and Atlanta once had. It’s unclear what, exactly, what could have caused the shift. So even though Austin has 14:1 betting odds at the moment (which is the same chance bookies gave the Chicago Bears for representing the NFC in the Super Bowl), and Dallas sits at a dismal 60:1 (the same odds that the Detroit Lions have), it’s worth treating the future of HQ2 as an open question. Right now, we just don’t know much.
One thing that we do know, though, is that whatever city HQ2 lands in is going to see some fairly significant changes. Chief among them will be the housing market. The Atlantic‘s CityLab explored how real estate speculators and investors will handle the influx of young, well-paid newcomers to housing markets that can already be fairly tight.
According to CityLab, whichever region lands HQ2 can expect more than 120,000 new residents. The facility is expected to employ upwards of 50,000 people, who will be bringing (or starting) families, and who will create demand for additional services that make room for even more new residents. In Austin, that would strain the already sky-high demand for single-family homes (the market for those broke $1.2 billion for the first time in August), and spike rents citywide. Polling conducted in the spring found that 74 percent of Austinites were worried about what the arrival of HQ2 would mean for the city’s cost of living, and for good reason. According to a study in the New York Times in April, being selected as the site of HQ2 would more than double the acceleration of Austin’s rent increases over a ten-year period, which the study found would be worth $262 a month if Amazon chose the capital (compared to the $113 increase projected for Austin over the same period if HQ2 lands elsewhere). Those numbers don’t compare to the spike that the study projected in cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Raleigh. CityLab attributes the smaller increases to the geographic space Austin has to expand its housing supply, should Amazon catapult it into the sort of megalopolis we’ve seen elsewhere in Texas—while cities like Denver and L.A. would see demand increase without much room to grow.