Austin’s Basic-Income Experiment Improved Housing Security for Participants

Recipients largely spent the monthly $1,000 on basic necessities like housing and food, which mirrors results of similar programs in other U.S. cities.

2 minute read

February 8, 2024, 8:00 AM PST

By Mary Hammon


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athrasher / Cash

Business Insider recently reported on the results of the Austin Guaranteed Income Pilot — the first program of its kind in Texas — which gave 135 low-income families $1,000 a month for a year. Participants were allowed to spend the money however they wished, and after the pilot ended last August, they reported spending more than half of it on housing.

A report from the Urban Institute, a Washington D.C. think tank, said participants in Austin’s program “were ‘substantially more housing secure’ than when they enrolled, while other Texas residents with low incomes became ‘modestly less housing secure’ over the same period,” according to the Insider article by Kenneth Niemeyer.

Niemeyer reports that many other cities around the U.S. are also “experimenting with basic-income projects to address rising homelessness and support their most vulnerable residents,” including Baltimore and Denver. Those programs also reported increased housing security for recipients. 

Despite these results, guaranteed-income programs remain controversial. Earlier this month, Harris County, Texas, which includes Houston, launched a guaranteed-income program called Uplift Harris that gives low-income residents $500 a month, but State Sen. Paul Bettencourt sent a letter to the state’s attorney general asking him to declare the program unconstitutional, based on a section of the Texas constitution that says the legislature cannot give any county power to grant public money for the aid of an individual.

“The county's attorney told the Houston Chronicle that Bettencourt was ‘more focused on political games and weaponizing government institutions than making life better for the people of Harris County,’” writes Niemeyer.

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