On MLK holiday, residents rally against gentrification in Austin

Residents of east and Southeast Austin gathered Monday calling for the mayor and city council to bring an end to gentrification.

Jessica Vargas lives on the southeast side in a mobile home park just near riverside, and she planned on staying there a while. That's until she says she got a note from the city.

“They told us at the end of December that we had to be out by February 28,” said Vargas.

She says it will be a huge inconvenience

“It's an old trailer. We don't know if it's going to break,” said Vargas.

She is one of the several who gathered at the old Montopolis School for Negro Children to hold a rally on the Martin Luther King holiday.

Residents from both the eastside and Montopolis neighborhoods are urging the mayor and city council to put a stop to gentrification.

“We are fighting for our homes, our history, our culture, our neighborhoods and our community,” said Dr. Fred McGhee head of “Save the Montopolis Negro School” coalition.

The group outlined six steps they hope city council can take as soon as possible:

1.      Establish interim land restrictions in East Austin to limit degradation of the fragile natural and cultural environment

2.      Establish a low-income housing trust fund

3.      Use city public land in 2018 to create 2,000 low-income housing units

4.      Implement an East Austin neighborhood conservation program

5.      Enact “right to return” and “right to stay” programs

6.      Enact a local environmental quality review program to ensure environmental justice

Opponents of Austin's proposed land development code, Code Next say the drafts do not help with middle class housing.

“Affordable housing and other terms like it like urban regeneration are euphemisms for cultural destruction,” said McGhee.

“They have to understand. It's not Code Next. If you're black or brown, that means you're next,” said Nelson Linder, president of Austin’s NAACP.

“Code Next is not a product it's a process. We are asking people in the community to all join together to see what we can change about the code, in order to stop all the displacement and gentrification that's happening under the existing code,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

Adler hopes everyone can work together to find a solution.

“I share the concern of the folks in East Austin that the existing code is not serving us well,” said Adler.