Austin's anti-displacement task force holds public meeting

The City of Aaustin's anti-displacement task force held a public meeting for the first time this Saturday.

They are working to combat gentrification in East Austin and the meeting is something longtime residents say they have been anxious to attend. 

"You have to live it to understand it....On one hand you see someone who's American who is from this country and they move here...But then they come to an area they know nothing about. They see a cheap home..close to downtown and say let's buy it."

Alberto Garcia and his family have been living in Dove Springs for decades. "I dream of having a home in my neighborhood...That's starting to become a distant dream because of how expensive it's becoming."

Over the past few years, he says rent for his 1 bedroom apartment has increased from 430 dollars.. to more than 11 hundred. He blames it on gentrification and says several of his family members have been pushed out from their mobile homes in East Austin for the same reason.

"But as you can see we are dissastisfied. They want to talk for 45 minutes giving reports and data when we are living gentrification and displacement."

Unheard. That's how the people of Susana Almanza's community say they feel after Saturday's anti-displacment task force forum. She's the Director of PODER - which stands for "People oOganized in Defense of Earth and Resources."

The organization works for social and environmental justice in East Austin. "Those are all the things you have to go up against. Where am i going to live is it going to be by a grocery store? Is there a bus that's going to take us there? Will my kids get to keep their friends? Will they be able to stay in the same school? All of those things come up to the forefront when you're being displaced."

During Saturday's forum, the panel discussed preserving and expanding affordable housing, small businesses, and cultural and historic resources.

They also touched on CodeNEXT - Austin's first major rewrite of land development code in 30 years.

It's meant to manage the city's growth but residents say they don't think it's the answer.

"Zipcode 78702 which is east austin prodominently people of color is the second most gentrified zipcode in the united states. So we know we are being displaced. We know we are being gentrified. We don't need studies and we don't need to hear 20 30 40 minutes of data. These people behind me they have been displaced from the mobile home parks," according to Susanna. 

PODER has come up with a six point plan they would like the city to adopt alongside CodeNEXT:

  1. Create low income housing trust fund and appropriations
  2. Adopt right to stay and right to return programs for East Austin residents
  3. Use city owned land for low income housing
  4. Expand use of neighborhood conversation combined districts and historic districts
  5. Establish interim development regulations in areas with inadequate drainage. 
  6. Implement Austin environmental quality review.