City Council wants demolition permits to come with demographic details

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a rapidly growing city, that’s building up and out, the Austin City Council is looking more closely at what’s being torn down. So far this year, the city has issued 157 demolition permits for family homes and duplexes. That’s nearly double the number for the same time period two years ago. In east Austin, neighbors don’t need numbers to notice the trend.

“I’ve lived here for six years and in that time I’ve seen that large house go up, this house is being built right now, there are two giant houses that was one lot that got split into two houses,” Cheraya Esthers said, pointing to homes that surround her on the corner of Garden and Comal streets.

She’s lived in east Austin for six years. “I make a lot of my art here in my backyard. I share that space with my friends so I can have people come in and make pieces,” Esthers said. It’s her friends who are also trying to piece together what to do next.

Property appraisal records show homes in the area have surged in value over the last few years. In 2012, a home was valued at just over $180,000. Four years later, that house is worth more than $330,000. Another home on the same street was valued at $231,000 in 2012  Four years later, that house is now worth more than $440,000.

“She lives here on the east side and her house just got bought out by condo developers and they had no other choice but to sell,” Esthers explained.

It’s a now common story with an end everyone is feeling. “It changes the whole financial demographic of the neighborhood,” Esthers said.

Back in January, the City Council passed a resolution asking city staff for regular reports of demolitions in Austin — a tool meant to hold on to housing that’s affordable. The move was meant to assure the city doesn’t inadvertently incentivize demos of the very housing it’s trying to preserve.

“Every year I cross my fingers and hope I can resign my lease,” Esthers said. “Every year.”

With every demolition, council now wants demographic information, such as race, whether there are children in the home and the incomes of family members. It’s up to city staff to figure out what it will take to deliver on that request and what it will mean for developers.

“It’s barely affordable, you know, we try to make it work,” Esthers said, as the city works to figure out a system that does. According to a memo from the Development Services Department and Neighborhood Housing and Community Development to the mayor and council, the city anticipates having a reporting system in place by May 31.

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