Surveys suggest that basic income payments are mostly spent on housing in Austin

Surveys suggest that basic income payments are mostly spent on housing in Austin

Evan Semones

  • In Austin, a guaranteed basic income program gave people $1,000 a month for a year.
  • On average, participants reported spending most of their cash on housing.
  • After one year, fewer participants said they could not eat a balanced meal.

People on a guaranteed basic income in one of Texas’ largest cities have reported reduced housing insecurity. But some Texas lawmakers aren’t happy.

Austin became the first city in Texas to launch a taxpayer-funded guaranteed income program when the Austin Guaranteed Income Pilot launched in May 2022. The program served 135 low-income families, each receiving $1,000 per month. Funding for 85 families came from the City of Austin, and another 50 families were funded by charitable donations.

The program was designed as a tool to lift people out of poverty and give them access to housing. “We know that trusting people to make the right decisions for themselves and their families leads to better outcomes,” the city said on its website. “It leads to better jobs, increased savings, food security, housing security.”

Although the program ends in August 2023, a new report from the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank, shows that the city’s program actually helped its participants pay for housing and food. On average, program participants said they spent more than half of their cash on housing.

After the year-long program, surveys showed that participants were more likely to have housing than when they enrolled, while other low-income Texas residents were “less housing-secure,” the report said.

The program also helped reduce food insecurity among participants—the number of participants who reported being unable to eat a balanced diet dropped by 17 percentage points after one year.

Taniquewa Brewster, a single mother who began receiving payments from the program in September 2022, told local NBC affiliate KXAN that the money she received helped pay for medical bills and medication after an eight-day hospital stay.

While Austin was the first city in Texas to pilot a guaranteed income program, it’s not the only one. But not everyone in the state supports them.

Last week, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt sent a letter to the state attorney general asking him to declare the new program in Houston unconstitutional.

Harris County, which includes Houston, launched a guaranteed income program earlier this month that gives low-income residents $500 a month.

A county attorney told the Houston Chronicle that Bettencourt is “more focused on political games and weaponizing government agencies than improving life for the people of Harris County.”

Many other cities in the United States are also experimenting with basic income projects to address rising homelessness and support their most vulnerable residents. in Baltimore, Baltimore Young Families Success Foundation gives young parents $1,000 a month. In an earlier interview with Business Insider, Tonaeya Moore, policy director of the Maryland CASH Campaign, suggested that pollsters were spending their money mostly on the same common needs, such as housing and food.

In Denver, a basic income program that pays some people up to $1,000 a month was recently extended after reports from participants. increasing housing security.

Correction: January 29, 2024 — An earlier version of this story misstated some information from surveys. On average, participants said they spent most of the money on housing. The number of participants who stated that they could not eat a balanced meal decreased by 17 percentage points instead of 17%.

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