The Austin City Council has voted to tackle gentrification: amid rising rents, they’ve set in motion a series of policies that aim to increase affordable housing stock in poorer neighborhoods where new developments are being planned.
The council voted in favor of a measure that would create a new fee on commercial developments to fund affordable housing, reexamine a developer incentive program, and lay the groundwork for requiring more affordable units in new developments. The measure was passed at eight votes to three with Don Zimmerman of District 6, Ellen Troxclair of District 8, and Sheri Gallo of District 10 voting against the motion. District 4 Council Member Greg Casar, who sponsored the motion said, “This is a bold plan; it’s not a small set of incremental steps that are safe.”
“It’s not that I oppose supporting affordable housing,” said Gallo of the measure. “I think it’s important in this community to make sure we have affordable housing.… But I think it’s also important to give the council the ability to take tax dollars and spend them and balance them with all the other needs we have.”
As reported by the Statesman, “the aggressive and sure-to-be controversial moves” come after high-end housing units have replaced units in poorer and middle-income neighborhoods, most noticeably in East Austin. A study at the University of Texas has also found that 56% of African-American homeowners were displaced due to the soaring housing costs.
“This points to a predictable and clearly definable source of revenue” for housing, said District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool, who backed the measure. “I think it’s absolutely appropriate to use the budget process to define what our policy and value priorities are.”