AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council voted on consent Thursday to approve $41 million in anti-displacement funds to be used as the city gears up for Project Connect, an approved $7.1 billion transit system designed to expand and elevate the city’s current mass transit network.

Voters approved Project Connect in the November 2020 elections, with $300 million of the project’s overall cost allocated to anti-displacement initiatives. According to the city’s Project Connect anti-displacement effort, approximately 281,000 Austinites live within one mile of the project.

Thursday’s approved $41 million in funds, allocated for the fiscal year 2021-22, will be broken into two parts: $21 million committed toward constructing affordable housing resources and $20 million toward anti-displacement mitigation efforts.

This fiscal year’s $41 million in funds follows a commitment of $23 million in FY 2020-21 to both land acquisition and affordable housing preservation efforts.

During a November anti-displacement community meeting, Project Connect officials provided a 13-year breakdown of how that $300 million funding will be disseminated throughout the project’s construction:

  • FY 2020-21: $23 million
  • FY 2021-22: $42 million
  • FY 2022-23: $35 million
  • FY 2023-24: $20 million
  • FY 2024-25: $20 million
  • FY 2025-26: $20 million
  • FY 2026-27: $20 million
  • FY 2027-28: $20 million
  • FY 2028-29: $20 million
  • FY 2029-30: $20 million
  • FY 2030-31: $20 million
  • FY 2031-32: $20 million
  • FY 2032-33: $20 million

Ahead of the council’s vote on consent, Council Member Ann Kitchen — who also serves as vice-chair on the Capital Metro board — noted this was a critical vote in ensuring appropriate measures are taken to minimize the impact this project’s development will have on residents and community stakeholders.

Within one mile of the project’s boundaries, approximately 67% of residents qualify as low-income, with 60% of residents in the one-mile radius categorized as non-white.

“This is a recognition and a thank you to our staff, to the community advisory committee and to everyone who’s been involved with the anti-displacement efforts, that we continue to act as quickly as we possibly can and as effectively and as focused as we possibly can, understanding that this needs to be community-led,” she said. “Because that’s what’s going to get us the most effective response when trying to mitigate and address displacement.”

Monica Guzmán lives in the Rundberg area of Austin. She’s also the policy director for GO Austin/Vamos Austin (GAVA). She’s seen gentrification slowly change the entire look and feel of her community over the past decade. For years, she’s been advocating for affordable housing and transportation improvements in various communities across the city. GAVA issued this statement asking city leaders for a say in how Project Connect’s anti-displacement funding was spent.

“People who have the finances are showing up with cash in hand making offers of over $20,000 and more over asking price,” Guzmán said.

Project Connect’s anti-displacement funding will prioritize housing and development in her area near the North Lamar Transit Center, the St. Edwards area and between the Lakeshore and Montopolis stops on the blue line.

“We’re also looking at areas such as Riverside where we might see transit induced displacement pressures from the construction of the rail line,” said Awais Azhar, the chair of Project Connect’s community advisory committee.

He says the funding will largely target low-income families earning less than 50-thousand a year.. and help them with rent, employment and homeownership. He says the funding will largely target low-income families, like a family of four earning less than $50,000. Since the money was approved Thursday, city staff will now hammer out programmatic details. He says the city will get proposals from local non-profits, community members and businesses on how to develop programs and housing in prioritized areas. But he expects the funding could help with things like rent, homeownership, home repair programs, utility assistance and employment.

This illustration was created by Racial Equity Catalyst Jasmine Willis based on balanced allocation priorities defined in the city’s racial equity anti-displacement tool.