For far too many Texans, reaching the first rung on the ladder to economic success — buying their first home — has become significantly more difficult after years of rising prices.

This policy blueprint takes a bird’s eye view at what’s driving housing prices higher and lays out concrete steps that Texas policymakers can take today to address the high cost of housing across the state.

These recommendations aim to address the barriers to home ownership that so many Texas families, seniors and young mobile Texans face today and tomorrow.

Key takeaways

  • Texas is best served by policies promoting abundant, diverse housing stock
  • In planning for the future, cities should consider increasing gentle density in improving accessibility and affordability of housing.
  • A range of multi-unit housing types in walkable neighborhoods, the “missing middle,” allows for better density planning by cities.

What the data says about housing affordability


of total homes sold for $300,000 or less nationwide in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


of total homes sold for $300,000 or less nationwide in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


of the average price of a home in 2021 went toward costs of regulatory compliance. Some examples of these costs include: seeking zoning approval, required fees and studies, changes in building codes or cost of land that is remitted to the government.

What the data says about housing in Texas

  • In 2018, the median house price in Texas hit $232,900 and surpassed three times the state’s median household income of $59,670, a common measure of unaffordability.
  • Median home prices in Texas in November 2022 stood at $330,000, a dip from the peak of $360,000 in May of 2022, but still 35% higher than they were in March 2020.
  • The country as a whole lacks 3.8 million market rate housing units with Texas accounting for 322,000 of those missing units, according to estimates from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and the organization Up for Growth.
  • As housing prices rise, so do the percentage of Texans who are housing “cost burdened,” meaning they spend at least 30% of their income on housing. More than 45% of Texas renters are cost burdened, as are 26.4% of homeowners with mortgages.
  • More than 70% of Austin school district employees said they are housing “cost burdened,” per a recent survey.

An affordable housing roadmap for Texas should include the following reforms:

Key 1: Raising the “valid petition” threshold

Raising the threshold for rezoning protest petitions empowers local communities to plan better for gentle density as a strategy to improve accessibility and affordability of housing.

Key 2: Streamlining the permitting process

Municipal planning departments are struggling with staffing; contracted professionals can help clear the backlog of permitting applications.

Key 3: Minimum lot sizes

Prospective homeowners should have flexibility on the amount of land they need to house their families. The Legislature can act to reduce minimum lot size requirements.

Key 4: In-law units

Enable property owners to build or maintain accessory dwelling units, popularly known as casitas or in-law suites. These naturally affordable units add housing to neighborhoods and create opportunities for intergenerational living and income streams for homeowners.

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