In an effort to combat negative effects of gentrification, Austin City Council approved three Homestead Preservation Districts (HPDs) in impoverished parts of the booming city on Dec. 17, the Austin Chronicle reported.
Residents of the areas selected for HPDs have faced stagnant wages, escalating living costs, rising property taxes and explosive growth in recent years, and have been living with the threat of displacement. The districts will reinvest property taxes to promote equitable housing, by either building or rehabilitating affordable homes, with the goal of preventing residents from getting priced out of their communities.
According to Texas law, for an area to be eligible for HPD designation, its residents must earn less than 80 percent of the city’s median family income — about $54,000 in Austin — and experience a poverty rate at least double that of the municipality. The HPDs will be in East, North and Southeast Austin, and will not establish new taxes or increase existing taxes in other parts of Austin.
According to the Chronicle, local residents and politicians have been talking about forming these districts for years.
The districts are roughly a decade in the making — Rep. Eddie Rodriguez passed legislation in 2005 to establish a funding mechanism for them. He described the Council vote as a “personal victory” and a meaningful tax-reform measure for affordable housing. “Ten years after I first passed legislation to allow cities to create homestead preservation districts, our City Council has set the wheels in motion for long-term affordability options for Austin residents,” he said in a statement. “Now, rising property values can actually benefit low-income Austinites.”
Austin currently has a shortage of 48,000 affordable housing units for low-income families. The city has tried to alleviate this problem in the past with loans for affordable housing projects, and in the private sector, one business has proposed micro-housing.
Kelsey E. Thomas is Next City’s associate editor.