AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin announced Monday it will work with nonprofit organizations and community partners to disseminate $20 million in anti-displacement funding related to Project Connect.
The financial resources will be used to “benefit residents who face vulnerable, chronic, or active displacement risk and live within one mile of Project Connect lines and stations,” per the release.
“Our goal is to fund ideas proposed by organizations where community members drive decision making,” Housing and Planning Department Director Rosie Truelove said in the release. “We want local organizations to provide solutions to address Austin’s displacement challenges. We also want the support of the community to select which proposals get funded. The city aims to provide real help, in real ways to folks who call Austin home.”
Specifically, the $20 million will be available for the following uses:
- Renter and tenant stabilizations
- Expanded homeowner opportunities to area residents along Project Connect
- Housing-centered focuses “that support economic mobility opportunities”
“These investments will prioritize programs and services that support residents to remain in their homes and neighborhoods by avoiding evictions and foreclosures, supporting the expansion of home ownership and creating asset-building opportunities that improve people’s economic mobility,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, Austin’s community displacement prevention officer, during a Monday press conference.
“I’m concerned, because I think there is lack of clarification on what they mean,” said Monica Guzmán, GO! Austin/VAMOS! Austin policy director.
She said funds need to go directly to Austinities.
“Assistance with property taxes, that people that struggle with holding onto their homes, because it’s the property taxes that are getting to them,” she said.
She also thinks the most vulnerable — those who don’t have any other transportation — are still being left of out the conversation.
“My biggest concern with the funds is that it will be used in a manner that really isn’t benefiting the most vulnerable of our community, that there won’t be enough engagement with community-based organizations such as GAVA,” Guzmán said. “So, it’s just concern about more of the same instead of real engagement, real information and real assistance.”
Tyresse Horn said the anti-displacement funds are also coming in late — many are already being displaced.
“I think it’s late for this neighborhood,” she said.
She lives in an area labeled as “active displacement” on the city’s map, but that risk assessment was made in 2019. She’s seen many neighbors move out of her East Cesar Chavez neighborhood since she moved there in 2007.
“It’s multiple factors. It’s property taxes; it’s the rental squeeze in general,” said Horn.
She said tax bills got passed onto renters, which she said made up most of her neighborhood, pricing them out.
“Keeping rents low enough for people to stay just hasn’t been tenable. And as you know, more development has come in, it’s just increased the number of people who want to come here, and so they’re willing to pay more, and they do,” Horn said.
This $20 million in funding is part of a 13-year, $300 million commitment to anti-displacement resources. Austin City Council approved in March $65 million in anti-displacement funding to be used during the first two years of the project’s timeline. Alongside the $20 million approved for nonprofit-led resources, $23 million will go toward land acquisition with $21 million for land development.
Guzmán said given rising housing prices and interest and mortgage rates, the city’s going to need more to help stop displacement.
“We know for a fact it’s not enough,” she said.
KXAN posed this question to the city, along with when its map would be updated and if it may be considering increasing anti-displacement funds. Officials have not yet responded.
Guzmán said she’s not sure if GAVA would qualify for funding for the new anti-displacement program, but they were interested in finding out more. If you’re interested, you can find out more here.
Project Connect has identified a minimum of 302,000 people and 135,000 housing units located within a one-mile radius of included stations and lines. However, these data points are from 2020 estimates.
City estimates reveal the following breakdown of residents living within one mile of the project’s boundaries, by race and ethnicity:
A virtual information meeting will be held for interested groups at 5:30 p.m. on April 20. The deadline to apply is June 13 at 4 p.m.