Cost of Living in San Marcos: Why is There a Rise and How is it Affecting Residents?

As Austin remains being one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, neighboring cities, such as San Marcos, continue to see an impact in population density. The increase in population has created a rise in the cost of living, affecting many residents and university students.  

Here is a chart analyzing the population increase between 2015 and 2019 in San Marcos.

Whether it be new apartment complexes or gentrification in an area, San Marcos has seen an increase in construction throughout the past couple of years. Although these new buildings and renovations have helped San Marcos look more modern, it is directly affecting college students, specifically those having to provide for themselves. In addition, 20 to 29-year-olds are the age groups with the highest population percentage in San Marcos, meaning that college students and graduates tend to be the most affected by the increase in the cost of living. 

An older building on The Square, called the LBJ Museum, is under construction and being modernized.
The Parlor is one, out of the many, new apartment complexes in San Marcos.
Here is a closer look at The Parlor and the first sign residents see when walking into the building.
This data visual shows the different percentages of age groups living in San Marcos.
This data visual shows the different percentages of age groups living in San Marcos.

Being a college student and having a job comes with many difficulties. For example, student at Texas State University Daniela Mahria works 25 hours a week to cover her groceries, utilities and rent bills. Although working 25 hours a week is typically the average amount of hours to work weekly, adding on school assignments and extra curricular activities makes it difficult to live stress-free.

“I think the price increase doesn’t reflect the living conditions you are in. You can live in a not fancy, or just the bare minimum and it would be a lot of money. In terms of student living, you could be paying 700 a month for just your room,” said Mahria. “How many hours a week do you have to work to be able to live there? It just doesn’t equal each other.”

Being a first-generation student, Mahria says that the city of San Marcos could help educate students who do not have the advantage of having parents with prior knowledge of how costly college living can be. Although it may be difficult for the city to allocate funds, providing additional resources explaining how the cost of living works would be helpful to the many first-generation students Texas State University has. 

This chart compares some elements affecting the cost of living in the U.S. versus San Marcos.

The area will continue to see an increase in the cost of living within the years to come, but why is that? Associate professor at the McCoy College of Business at Texas State University William Chittenden breaks down trends that San Marcos residents should prepare for in the near future. 

“If you look at between 2010 and 2020, it averaged about six people a day moving to San Marcos. Every single day, for 365 days a year, for ten years,” Chittenden said. “Of course, we’ve had a lot of new apartment complexes come online, but when you have that kind of demand, it’s gonna help drive up those rental costs.”

Ranging from studios to four bedroom apartments, this graph identifies the average monthly rent residents have to pay to live in these apartments.
These charts compare the unemployment, sales tax, household income, individual income and uninsured rates of people living in the U.S./Texas (overall) compared to San Marcos.
In this picture, the brand new apartment complex is using big banners and advertisements to entice people to move in.
Here is a closer look at renovations happening on The Square.

Although San Marcos has seen a record number of freshmen students and residents occupying the city, even though new apartments and houses are being built, supply is not growing as fast as demand is. As a result, Chittenden says that it is challenging to think of ways the city could help struggling residents, in terms of housing.

“It takes a lot of tax dollars to put together any low-income housing or subsidized housing. So, it’s something that as a community they have to come and decide that that’s where they want their resources to go,” said Chittenden. 

Throughout San Marcos, residents see many of these signs and road blockages on highways and sidewalks.
The View is an apartment currently under construction in San Marcos.
Aspire, one of San Marcos’ biggest apartment complex, recently opened in 2020.

As old and new San Marcos residents see rent prices increasing, specifically apartment rent, they may want to blame it on apartment agents, staff and the complex as a whole. Some complexes may be cheaper than others. Although location and the amenities provided by the apartment play a significant factor in determining rent costs, more goes into it.

Here is a construction worker fixing a pipe outside of the apartment complex, The View.
This construction sight, in addition to many other construction sights in the area, is right in front of houses.

“For rent amount, people don’t understand that there’s leasing tiers. The longer you wait, the more spots have been taken, so it costs more over time,” said leasing agent at Cabana Beach Apartments Ryan Reed.

Of course, the population density is a significant component affecting the cost of living; however, residents can find ways, such as leasing early on in the year, to help relieve rent costs. Reed says that even though he has seen an increase in rent prices throughout his first year working at Cabana Beach Apartments, this has been an overall trend across all of San Marcos’ apartments. In addition, many complexes offer discounts, depending on the point of the leasing season. “That’s something you’ll see in San Marcos as a whole,” Reed said. 

“We have a program called Texas Rent Relief. So, if someone were to not be able to pay their rent, especially during the COVID times, that’s one avenue you can take,” said Reed. 

Here is an audio story with combined interview audio between Daniela Mahria and William Chittenden.

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