Austin experimented with giving people $1,000 a month. They spent the no-strings-attached cash mostly on housing, a study found.


A street filled with cars in Austin, Texas.

Austin, Texas.Evan Semones

  • A guaranteed basic income program in Austin gave people $1,000 a month for a year.

  • Most of the participants spent the no-string-attached cash on housing, a study of the program found.

  • Participants who said they could afford a balanced meal also increased by 17%.

A guaranteed basic income plan in one of Texas’s largest cities reduced rates of housing insecurity. But some Texas lawmakers are not happy.

Austin was the first city in Texas to launch a tax-payer-funded basic income program when the Austin Guaranteed Income Pilot kicked off in May 2022. The program served 135 low-income families, each receiving up to $1,000 monthly. Funding for 85 families came from the City of Austin while philanthropic donations funded the other 50.

The program was billed as a means to boost people out of poverty and help them afford housing. “We know that if we trust people to make the right decisions for themselves and their families, it leads to better outcomes,” the city says on its website. “It leads to better jobs, increased savings, food security, housing security.”

While the program ended in August 2023, a new study from the Urban Institute, a Washington DC-based think tank, found that the city’s program did in fact help its participants pay for housing and food. On average, program participants spent more than half of the cash they received on housing, the report’s authors wrote.

After the yearlong program, the participants 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, the authors found.

The program also helped reduce food insecurity among participants — 17% fewer families were unable to afford a balanced meal, the report says.

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

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

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

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

The program’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.”

Many other cities around the United States are also experimenting with basic income projects to address rising homelessness and support their most vulnerable residents. In Baltimore, the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund gives young mothers up to $1,000 a month. The campaign’s director of policy, Tonaeya Moore, previously told Business Insider that surveys show that participants mostly spend their money on the same general necessities, like housing and food.

And in Denver, a basic income program that gives people up to $1,000 a month was recently extended after finding it also increased housing security among its participants.

Read the original article on Business Insider



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