Alyssa Goard, KXON-TV, March 8, 2018
Thursday, the Austin City Council amended and approved a resolution to give the city manager the green light to explore a policy to reverse gentrification in east Austin.
The city’s Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities Task Force recommends that Austin adopt their own version of Portland, Oregon’s policy for bringing former residents back to gentrified areas. Austin’s policy hasn’t been finalized yet, but it would give priority status to people applying for affordable housing in east Austin who are part of families who have lived in the area for years or who have been forced out by gentrification.
The city’s efforts here lean on a partnership with researchers at UT Austin who have been documenting and calculating displacement in east Austin. This research will be used to map vulnerable neighborhoods and craft a “right to return” policy.
Their findings show that both families who have been in the area for generations and people of color are being pushed out by changes there. The displacement of these residents is especially complicated in east Austin, which at one point was the part of the city designated for people of color by Jim Crow laws. Many residents who once felt strong communities in the area, now feel that sense of community disappearing, the UT researchers reported.
Those researchers with the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis reported that Austin is the only fast-growing major city in the U.S. to show a decline of African Americans between 2000 and 2010. Within a decade, they found that East Austin’s white population increased by 442%, the black population decreased by 66%, and the latino population decreased by 33%.
According to the UT researchers, more than 70% of their survey respondents had been routinely asked to sell their homes to prospective buyers, saying that the offers had been aggressive and “insultingly low compared to market value.”