Austin Is Full Of Anti-Gentrification Ideas, But Most Wouldn't Have A Direct Impact

Feb 6, 2018

Since 2000, the City of Austin has had a lot of ideas about how to slow down gentrification. A task force recommended in 2002, for example, that the city educate residents about available property tax exemptions. In 2008, City Council members asked the city manager to find city-owned land suitable for affordable housing.

And there were 539 other recommendations.

As part of a new report, the Office of the City Auditor put together a list of City Council and task force recommendations created with the hopes of mitigating gentrification. The list, which dates back to 2000, includes 541 recommendations or resolutions.

But the auditor’s office found only a quarter of these recommendations would directly affect gentrification, could be acted on or were not restricted by state law.

Credit Office of the City Auditor

“There’s a whole lot of them that are kind of impractical as written or are too broad or vague,” said Katie Houston, an assistant city auditor. “Really, if we’re going to move forward with a lot of these recommendations, writing them in a manner that makes them more actionable would be really useful.”

Of the 133 recommendations that staff considered actionable, 56 have been implemented. Four have not been implemented, and the auditor’s office is still waiting to hear back on the status of the other 73.

Credit Office of the City Auditor

Between 2000 and 2010, Austin lost 5 percent of its black population, as many people felt pushed out of East Austin by rising housing costs.

The City Council asked staff to compile the report in August, at the same time a new anti-displacement task force was formed. The hope was that the city, which has had at least three other task forces on gentrification since 2000, would not be duplicating past efforts.

“I want to honor their work and to let them know we recognize it, we value it and we’re not redoing that work – we’re rebuilding it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo, who called for the latest report.

The report also notes that the statuses of many of the anti-gentrification suggestions aren't being tracked.

Raul Alvarez, who co-chairs the city’s anti-displacement task force, said having an inventory of past efforts can help the task force focus discussions.  

“We can build upon the work that’s been done in the past, and we can utilize that to inform the work of the task force … because some of these things may or may not have received the followup attention that was needed,” he said.