A group of East Austin activists have a plan to slow gentrification in their neighborhood: pay the property tax of people who would otherwise be forced out.
A campaign launched today by former Austin City Council member Raul Alvarez aims to raise $50,000 to help about 20 homeowners, mostly retired people living on fixed incomes, get up to date on their tax bills.
Suzana Almanza with the environmental justice group PODER is involved in the campaign.
“Just imagine if you had to build affordable housing, you would probably be spending about $3 million just to construct it," Almanza said in a telephone interview. "Here, we could save 20 affordable homes for as little as $50,000. We can also stabilize the community, and slow down the gentrification that’s happening in East Austin.”
Almanza says the campaign is called the Campaign to Preserve Housing Affordability in East Austin. While the campaign doesn't have a website set up yet, it is providing more information to people who email firstname.lastname@example.org
The homeowners are mostly those in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood, an area located about 1.5 miles from downtown Austin. While it hasn't seen the same level of change as areas closer to downtown, Almanza says gentrification has affected local residents.
"We see the impact on people that have lost their homes," she said. "They lack the access to get to their doctors, their families. We see a lot of the schools are underutilized. We see a lot of loss of culture."
Of course, helping homeowners pay their property tax this year doesn't eliminate the challenge in years to come. Almanza says the group plans to work on financial management plans with low income homeowners and may try to set up partnerships to help partially subsidize their property tax bills in future years.