1. Home
  2. life
  3. news
  4. I'm moving out of Texas after 60 years there. The culture has changed and big tech firms have made Austin too expensive.

I'm moving out of Texas after 60 years there. The culture has changed and big tech firms have made Austin too expensive.

Alcynna Lloyd   

I'm moving out of Texas after 60 years there. The culture has changed and big tech firms have made Austin too expensive.
  • Flora Batts, 65, has had it with Texas' high cost of living, hot weather, and divisive politics.
  • Batts is moving to northwest Pennsylvania, a part of the Ruset Belt where homes are cheaper.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Texas native Flora Batts, a 65-year-old retired Medicaid program coordinator, who is moving to Pennsylvania in May. The essay, which also incorporates quotes from emails between Batts and BI, has been edited for length and clarity.

Austin has been my home for more than 60 years — minus the time spent following around my military husband.

I have family buried from Odem to Amarillo, but we're leaving the state for Pennsylvania.

We found our next home and will close on May 17, with the movers arriving on the 22nd to take us 1,500 miles north.

This decision wasn't made in haste or as a knee-jerk reaction to current affairs. It's like a marriage slowly dying over the years.

The quality of life in Austin has plummeted. Forget about buying a house here — the cost of living puts Dallas to shame. Moreover, most of my favorite restaurants are gone, replaced mainly by expensive fusion or fast food, and the traffic congestion makes it feel like Houston in the '70s. Plus, I hate hot weather.

It comes to a point when you know — you know — it's over.

Austin just isn't what it used to be

My family and I moved to Austin in 1963. The house my parents bought was considered the furthest reaches of North Austin at the time.

I grew up in the city, probably during one of the better times. Back then, there were open fields, and my brother and I used to go sailing and fish for crawdaddies. It was almost like living in the countryside.

Coming of age in Austin in the 70s was just an incredible time; you could do anything. The city had enough to allow us to get into trouble but still be safe.

I lived 20 minutes from a lake, so we would have bonfires and parties. You could go to the Armadillo and see Shawn Phillips, and catch drag shows downtown. The University of Texas students really kept the city young and on its toes.

I don't see that so much anymore. Tech has totally changed everything. Michael Dell kicked the door down and let everybody in. All that tech money changed Austin and drove up the cost of living.

It costs so much to afford homes in Austin now

After moving to South Carolina for the military, my husband and I moved back to Austin in 1998. At that time, I believe there was a 98% occupancy rate. Even back then the rents were sky high — they've just never really come back down.

The homes have gotten more expensive here, too.

In 1963, my parents bought their house for about $30,000. It's just a tiny house, one story and very simple. When my sister sold it after my mother passed away, it went for $220,000. It was later flipped, remodeled, and sold for around $500,000.

The 40-year-old, 2,400-square-foot home my husband and I bought in 2001 for $197,000 sold for $350,000 six years ago — and later resold for $550,000.

Texas brags that we don't have a state income tax, but we do have property taxes. And they're some of the highest in the nation.

I'm a retired state employee, and I have a pension and my Social Security. My husband is also retired from the military and on Social Security, but our incomes aren't enough to buy a nice house in an Austin neighborhood.

We're renting as we wait to move out of the state. Right now we pay $2,300 a month for a three-bedroom, two-bath home that's around 1,900 square feet.

We know our money is going to go a lot farther elsewhere.

The political climate in Texas has changed

When I was a young woman, I felt very proud to be a Texan. To be a Texas woman meant you were strong and that you could stand on your own two feet — and, in some cases, chew tobacco.

But it seems to me that the current government would prefer women to be demure and submissive, which is everything I was told was not characteristic of a Texas woman.

Thanks to 20 years of evolving conservative politics that seem to promote the idea that mom stays at home and raises the kids, I'm not comfortable identifying myself as a Texas woman.

I'm 65 years old, so abortion laws don't affect me. But they will affect my 14-year-old daughter.

I really don't think it should be the government's decision to tell her what she can and cannot do.

I want her to establish her own boundaries and have autonomy over her own body and life, but it's becoming less and less acceptable here.

Although my daughter was born in Austin and has only ever lived here, she doesn't really identify as a Texan. I think that speaks volumes.

Austin has become a playground for the wealthy

In the past, every Christmas, my sister-in-law and I would go with our kids to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. It was always a blast.

But it started getting more high-dollar vendors. It's making money hand over fist because there's a large population in Austin now that has a significant amount of disposable income. I'm not one of them. So I stopped going.

Many local businesses can also no longer afford to rent their retail space. We lost Nomadic Notions, a store that sold jewelry beading that also had all sorts of imported fabrics. It was so Austin-nesque, a very hippie vibe. We almost lost Toy Joy, too.

Back in the day, it was not a big deal to go down to the Paramount to watch a play. But because we're in far North Austin, the traffic really discourages us from venturing that far into town anymore.

The problem is that Austin is progressing faster than it can accommodate its population. We've been pushing the envelope for over 20 years now, operating at maximum occupancy off and on.

The city is trying to address the issue. It's doing a lot of expansion on the highways, and we've seen residential and retail building surge in the city. I believe it will eventually improve the infrastructure enough to handle the increasing population.

Our money will go further in Pennsylvania

For the past 10 years, we've been talking about leaving Austin. It was just a matter of deciding where to go.

At first, we thought about Colorado, but the pandemic really changed the whole landscape. Tech companies sunk their big dollars into the state. We got priced out of a real-estate market we used to think was affordable.

After Colorado, we started looking up states that would not tax our retirement income. We thought Virginia would be a good fit, but after visiting it for a week, the universe made it very clear that it was not for us.

We eventually decided on Pennsylvania, where my husband is from and still has family living. We're moving to Erie, where my daughter will be attending the same high school he graduated from.

The biggest driving factor is that there are an array of properties there that are affordable. We also wanted land with a lot of trees — something we couldn't afford in Austin.

In Erie, we bought a three-bedroom, two-bath home on two-thirds of an acre. It's an almost 100-year-old house that has been completely remodeled and expanded. It has a 16'x16' shed, which will be my clay studio. I'm just smitten with the property.

The area we're moving to is really quiet and 15 minutes away from Lake Erie. It's almost like going to the ocean because its waves are so strong, and there's a beach.

I'm also really stoked that it's always at least 20 degrees cooler there. I'm outdoorsy and like to be outside on my patio with my plants. But in Austin, I would always get hot flashes. Last summer, the weather was 110 degrees.

My life is going to change for the better

Pennsylvania is a purple state. I like knowing there's a nice balance between both sides, so everyone seems to get a voice and representation.

There will be a night-and-day difference between our lives in Texas and Pennsylvania. It won't be comparable.

My quality of life is going to be different. My husband has just retired. We'll have more time together in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood — very different from Austin, where it's loud and congested and there are condos in every backyard.

There are things I am going to miss about Austin, like the cheap gas, and the HEB grocery market. But Erie has local produce everywhere, miles of vineyards, and fruit trees in abundance.

I'll probably have to start making my own tortillas again and learn to replicate HEB's flaxseed waffles, but I like a good culinary challenge.

Popular Right Now