AUSTIN (AP) -- For anyone moving to Austin, getting a job is no problem. Finding a house or apartment is.
Housing studies, real estate agents, social workers, employers and employees all say the same thing: Austin is in the midst of a severe housing shortage and something needs to be done.
The problem is exacerbated because most of the southern Minnesota city's new workers don't have a lot of earning power, making their housing choices even more limited.
A paragraph from a study done by the Maxfield Research group highlights the needs of new workers:
''The majority of entry-level support and production jobs in Austin pay between $7.50 and $9.50 an hour (or about $15,600 to $19,760 annually). If housing costs absorb 30 percent of income, new workers in support and production positions should be able to afford to pay between $390 and $490 a month for housing, including utilities and parking.''
But units in that price range -- rental or for sale -- are tough to find.
Kermit Mahan, director of the local Housing and Redevelopment Authority, doesn't claim to have all the answers. He thinks much of what the city already does is working, but it needs to be expanded.
Housing programs currently under way at the HRA include spot housing, in which the agency buys decrepit housing, tears it down, cleans up the lot and turns it over to a private contractor who builds homes in the $80,000-$90,000 range and sells them to ''income-qualified buyers.''
Another is promoting construction of privately owned rental housing.
''Don't expect to see any low-income housing projects going up anywhere,'' said Karen Mattson, HRA deputy director of family housing. ''It's too expensive.''
According to Realty Plus President Scott Ulland, there is a shortage in every area of for-sale housing in Austin.
Ulland, who also is president of the local multiple listing service, sees the shortage as a result of low interest rates and a more optimistic attitude in the Austin market rather than a sudden influx of workers.
Looking on his computer, Ulland pulled up the active listings in town. There were 13 in the $40,000 to $60,000 range; 36 in the $60,000 to $90,000 range; 14 in the $90,000 to $120,000 range and eight in the $120,000 to $150,000 range.
''The average market price in town is $77,000,'' Ulland said. ''That's because most of Austin was built up with lower-priced housing. There is still a very high demand for the lower range, too.''
Ulland said the shortage of homes is greatest in the $90,000 to $120,000 range, the type of home a young professional or dual-income couple might buy.
''However,'' he added, ''there are very few houses in any specific price range in Austin,'' Ulland said. ''There's more demand than supply in every area. It would be a good time to sell a house here.''
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