Public Notice: Displacement Bad
New task force report finds room to improve
The Austin Anti-Displacement Task Force presented its Final Recommendations for Action to City Council's work session on Tuesday, Nov. 27. As with the Strategic Housing Blueprint Implementation Plan I wrote about last week, the Displacement report has strong words concerning the critical problems we face in housing, but while I noted that the Housing plan had a little something for everyone in the density/affordability/preservation debate, this report may seem more problematic to those who argue that only unfettered density will pave the way to affordability.
Given that the topic is displacement, it's perhaps not surprising that not one of the 107 recommendations relates to increasing the overall housing supply. But there's plenty of grist, on the other hand, to validate concerns voiced by neighborhood groups. And one of the lone references to the Land Development Code is: "Work to ensure the regulations that govern new development do not create an environment that is ripe for or exacerbates displacement." (Emphasis mine.)
The task force, created by City Council earlier this year, divided into four working groups, and the bulk of its report, the "Findings and Recommendations," is grouped accordingly into four sections:
1. Preserving and Expanding Affordable Housing for Homeowners,
2. Preserving and Expanding Affordable Housing for Renters,
3. Preserving and Growing Small Businesses and Cultural Assets, and
4. Identifying Financing Strategies.
Again, as with the Blueprint, I urge you to go look at the full recommendations. But I will call out the section on financing, which begins with a simple statement that ought to be obvious, but sometimes isn't: "Combating displacement and gentrification requires affordable housing. Displacement is thus ultimately a financial problem." And while the report joins others in applauding the recently passed $250 million housing bond, it also notes that money doesn't all have to come from public funds. First up under "Other sources of revenue" is "Developer incentives"; the report essentially urges that we maximize density bonuses and fees-in-lieu, making sure that all increases in entitlements (i.e., density) are linked to the provision of affordable housing. Specifically, "city council should ensure that the incentives provided to private developers maximize their contribution to affordable housing." And "The city should extend density bonus fees-in-lieu to all new commercial development" – i.e., require an affordability component for all housing in commercial zones, instead of allowing that housing by right, as density advocates would prefer.
And – to cut to the chase – despite dire warnings that "our city has failed to act effectively to stop the destruction of historically ethnic neighborhoods, the widespread stripping of household wealth of lower-income homeowners and renters, especially people of color with low-incomes, and the loss of small businesses and cultural assets which has led to the ethnic and economic homogenization of our city," the task force concludes that "a solution is within reach. It involves seven major initiatives:
1) Expanding public expenditures for housing affordability dedicated to low-income households, coupled with carefully crafted density increases that expand low- and moderate-income housing affordability.
2) Adopting government initiatives to produce more low- and moderate-income homes and provide housing access across the city linked to affordability goals and incentives for all Austin neighborhoods.
3) Placing an equal emphasis on the preservation of affordable housing as is given to new construction of affordable units.
4) Engaging our local business community and philanthropic institutions in developing resources to stop or mitigate displacement.
5) Challenging and overturning the unlawful usurpation by the Texas Legislature of the city's home rule powers to promote housing affordability and inclusion.
6) Taking intentional efforts to preserve the diverse cultural legacy of small businesses and community assets.
7) Engaging, persuading and empowering Austin citizens, neighborhoods, developers, businesses and philanthropic organizations to act to increase the city's economic, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This will require significant leadership and support for a civic infrastructure and financial incentives to empower citizen action for citywide and neighborhood diversity."
World AIDS Day began 30 years ago on Dec. 1, 1988; among local events commemorating it this Saturday:
• The Center for Health Empowerment will hold an open house, 9am-1pm, 4534 West Gate Blvd. #106.
• Free HIV/STI testing, organized by Austin Public Health, 10am-6pm, Walgreens, 1144 Airport.
• The Red Party and ribbon-cutting ceremony for ASA Springdale, AIDS Services of Austin's newest facility, 8pm-1am, 1023 Springdale, Bldg. 14.
My Life With Townes Van Zandt. On Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 7pm at BookPeople, author Harold Eggers Jr. will discuss his book about the music, genius, and rage of Townes Van Zandt, with Hector Ward of Hector Ward & the Big Time. Then Hector and other local musicians will perform some of Townes' iconic songs.
Park Plans. The Austin Parks and Recreation Dept. will hold two open houses next week to present park plans and take public feedback:
• Givens District Park: PARD is creating a master plan to guide future improvements and will introduce it on Tue., Dec. 4, 6-8pm at Givens Rec Center, 3811 E. 12th. See www.austintexas.gov/givensparkmp.
• Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park: The fourth and final community meeting for the master plan is Wed., Dec. 5, 6-8pm at Decker Middle School, 8104 Decker Ln. See www.austintexas.gov/department/walter-e-long-park-master-plan.
And Sunday, Dec., 2 is the last day to give online feedback on the Brush Square Master Plan; see www.austintexas.gov/BrushSqMP. Plus, an online survey on the PARD Long Range Plan: Our Parks, Our Future, is available at www.speakupaustin.org/our-parks-our-future.
Capital Metro's Community Conversations continue, gathering feedback on the Project Connect long-range transit plan, while Austin Transportation Department presents their own Austin Strategic Mobility Plan. Mayor Steve Adler hosts an "at-large" community conversation Tue., Dec. 4, 6-8pm, at City Hall, 301 W. Second; a meeting for Districts 4 & 7 is the prior evening, Mon. Dec. 3, 6-8pm at St. John's Episcopal Church, 11201 Parkfield. See www.capmetro.org/projectconnect and www.austintexas.gov/asmp.