AUSTIN (KXAN) — City leaders are asking Austinites to join a new panel that will review applications for Project Connect anti-displacement funding.
People on the panel will be able to review proposals from organizations to help people near Project Connect lines and stations, including ideas to prevent evictions and foreclosures and expand homeownership, according to a city press release.
The call for community panel members comes a week after leaders released $20 million in anti-displacement funding.
The city’s contract with voters on Project Connect includes a provision that $300 million of the tax revenue increase will be set aside for buying property and “financing tools and other anti-displacement strategies related to the implementation of Project Connect.”
But with increasing interest and mortgage rates, home prices and rent, KXAN asked the city if this money will be enough to help with anti-displacement.
“No,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, Austin’s Community Displacement Prevention officer. “The $300 million dollars are insufficient to meet the rapidly increasing housing costs that Austinites are facing, especially low-income households.”
She said they’re going to have to find other ways to address these challenges.
“As city leaders, as residents, we did not foresee what we are seeing currently,” Jackmon said.
She said the number “is not a silver bullet,” but one of many avenues the city is using to try to address anti-displacement for people who live within a one-mile radius of a Project Connect station or line, as well as people who are living in areas classified as facing vulnerable, active or chronic displacement.
The city mapped out those areas on this map, but the data is from 2019.
“I don’t know what the answer is. I like to think there might need to be some more regional collaboration,” Jackmon said.
Jackmon said the map data used the latest estimates available at the time from the American Community Survey. She said the Census Bureau released the latest estimate in March, so Housing and Planning staff hope to release updated maps this summer.
Robert Villareal Andrada lives in one of those areas in a house that’s also a part of family history since the 1940s.
“My grandpa was a little boy. Him and his four brothers … he ended up here,” Andrada said.
For years, he’s been struggling to hold onto the heirloom since a medical bill put him behind.
“God, I — I’m in the hole like 50, 60 grand, and it’s because of the snowballed taxes,” he said.
Andrada works odd jobs and created a workshop inside his home to make and sell t-shirts.
“This is really what’s kept me alive,” he said.
“Where am I taking, you know, my 30, 40-year experience as an artist and my tools as a carpenter and the maintenance work? In a suitcase and, you know, go find somewhere else?” Andrada wondered. “That’s something to think about every night.”
“There are many different funding investments and programs that are being led by the Housing and Planning Department, all which are aimed to support households and provide housing stability,” Jackson said.
She said all programs the Housing and Planning Department are working on fit into each other, even if they aren’t specifically for residents near Project Connect.
Jackmon also said legally they cannot use anti-displacement funds to help with any kind of taxes. But she hopes they can fund unique solutions that come from nonprofits’ applications.
Andrada hopes to be part of the community review panel.
“Definitely, I would like to voice my experience, you know, of what happened … what’s happening,” he said. “The fear of, ‘okay, what’s next, you know, am I going to be here, what am I gonna do?'”
Austin’s anti-displacement dashboard identifies 302,000 residents and 135,000 housing units within a one-mile radius of Project Connect, defined as “at risk” for displacement threats. These figures are based on 2020 population data, as well as the 2015-2019 American Community Survey five-year period estimates.
Officials said the one-mile radius threshold was determined based on research conducted in other cities that have undergone similar transit initiatives, including Los Angeles, Atlanta and Denver. City leaders added other cities’ research indicated the greatest threat to property values happened at residences half a mile from rail stations.
For Project Connect’s anti-displacement dollars, those individuals and households prioritized will be located within one mile of a project station or line, as well as households located in areas that are facing “vulnerable, active or chronic displacement risk,” Jackson said.
- Vulnerable: Neighborhoods near or that contain areas with higher property values, high rates of appreciations
- Active displacement risk: Neighborhoods including areas with “vulnerable residents, active demographic change and accelerating or appreciating housing market”
- Chronic displacement risk: Neighborhoods where vulnerable residents have already been displaced, have seen significant demographic changes or the housing market has both high value and high appreciation
The deadline for nonprofits to submit their solutions is June 13 at 4 p.m. You can find that information here.
The deadline to apply to be part of the community review panel is May 20. You can find that information here.