Focusing on Displacement

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Focusing on Displacement

Postby Steve Adler » Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:00 am

Colleagues:

As we go on July break, I’d like to share a preliminary idea about how we can address and communicate
with our residents about displacement, significantly related to other manifestations like gentrification, in
an intentional and comprehensive way. This posting is to seek input and to see if others want to join
Council Member Renteria, Council Member Garza and me in sponsoring a resolution to focus on this
issue in a comprehensive way beginning with the creation of a task force to highlight anti-displacement
policies, strategies, and tools.

Displacement is not a new concern and this and past Councils and Members have identified many ways
to address displacement. The goal of preventing displacement exists across many policy platforms and
recent examples include:

• One of the community values in the Strategic Housing Blueprint is preventing households from
being priced out of their neighborhoods.
• A discussion surfacing in the CodeNEXT process is the worry about whether increased unit
density, increased size density, up-zoning, and changed will effect displacement.
• A focus of the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities holds past
City leaders to account for racially discriminatory policies responsible for segregation and
gentrification-driven displacement and recommends several policies to remedy the resulting
inequitable status quo.
• The Spirit of East Austin initiative has begun to publish and vet a menu of equity interventions.
• The Equity Office is developing an Equity Tool, which is intended to create a framework to
evaluate city policies, departments and decisions to ensure equity.

Undoubtedly, addressing and preventing displacement is a direct or indirect goal of many City programs.
However, many initiatives, programs, and conversations on equity fail to provide a comprehensive,
cross-discipline, cross-department analytical framework to focus on displacement. While the goals and
policies associated with addressing displacement are generally aligned, they exist in several different
policy areas so it is difficult to measure progress in a meaningful way. In effect, some suggest we are
skipping the step in which we could begin with a data-based approach and leapfrogging straight to
proposing policy and enacting programs.

We all agree that displacement is a challenge, but we do not have a comprehensive understanding of
what’s causing it and how to address it comprehensively. The community is entitled to see that their
Council and city staff are addressing the issue, how they are addressing the issue, and the breadth of the
responses required. I think a task force on displacement would be well-taken and would reveal not only
the depth of the issue but also the scope of a real response. The resolution would commit the City to a
6-month-long process to gather information, understand contributing factors, set metrics and goals, and
raise responses. The data and work would be broken down geographically by neighborhood whenever
reasonably and constructively possible. The resolution could be adopted in August and could authorize
the creation of an 15-member task force, 11 members appointed by the City Council with additional
appointments made to ensure diversity and expertise. Its membership or supporting participants could
consist of those displaced, housing and tenant advocates, non-profit and for-profit housing developers,
education administrators, health care professionals, workforce developers, economists, academics and
the Equity Officer and our city staff. That task group could meet at least twice a month for six months
and be charged with assessing the growing loss of low and middle income residents and housing units
available to them, the property tax burden, education, health and economic considerations, quantifying
the problem, and then reporting back to the Council with a set of recommendations for consideration
and possible adoption.

The resolution will also commit a reasonable amount of time from staff to assist the task force in its
mission. The resolution could authorize staff to compile data for the task force showing the factors
responsible for displacement, including but not limited to the supply of housing, housing losses due to
demolition, upgrade and condominium conversion, speculative sale, abandonment, increased home
prices, rents and taxes, and provide other indicators or predictors of housing loss and/or displacement
such as education, health and workforce considerations drawing from available data.

As a community, we need more than just anecdotal information to address displacement, its cost to our
city’s diversity and quality of life, and its relationship to our growth and managing growth policies. We
need to evaluate existing conditions and future options with a data driven community discussion.
If we are better to manage growth to make Austin more affordable for more of our residents and to
preserve what we love about this city, we need more than good intentions and ad hoc reactions. We
need to address displacement in a comprehensive, broad and systematic, intentional manner. We need
a plan.

This challenge is one that will require us all to work together to find the best way forward. Anyone else
want to join in helping to bring forward a Council proposal?
Mayor
Steve Adler
 
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Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 2:12 pm

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