City’s new gentrification task force holds first community forum

Meara Isenberg

A new city task force, working with University professors to tackle gentrification, hosted its first community forum on Saturday.

“Coming out to hear people speak, we are hearing what (Austinites are) going through, what could be done or should have been done a long time ago,” task force member Yvette Crawford-Lee said. “It will help us to come up with hopefully a solution to solve the issues that have been going on for too many years.”

Crawford-Lee was one of the more than 50 people who attended the Anti-Displacement Task Force forum at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Center. She said that while she was appointed to study gentrification, it’s also something that has affected her personally.

“I was in a way forced out from my family home where I grew up and I was able to raise my children,” Crawford-Lee said. “I could just not afford the taxes, and I had to make that difficult choice to move. I would have loved to live in East Austin for the rest of my life, but if I moved back now, I wouldn’t be able to afford it, unfortunately.”

Eric Tang, an associate professor in African and African Diaspora Studies, was one of the speakers at the forum. Tang discussed his findings on a similar city task force assembled last year.

“The gap in housing between those who could afford what’s on the market and what’s on the market is vast,” Tang said. “You have to make that up quickly because the more time that passes that you don’t, the wider the gap gets. The rate of displacement will then grow as a result.”

Tang said the task force sent recommendations to the city last year, including increasing low-income housing and giving families who are being pushed out of their neighborhoods the ability to stay.

“This is a critical moment to talk about and implement key solutions, and build … actual affordable housing on land that is held in trust by the city,” Tang said.

Tang put some input into the People’s Plan, a proposal created by a group of community activists this January, that asks for a low-income housing trust fund and right to stay and right to return programs for East Austin residents, among other things.

Mayor Steve Adler also attended the forum, and said the city could potentially approve a recommendation to have the community spend over $100 million on affordable housing in communities.

“I think that there are hundreds of things the city should be doing … and one of them is to invest the capital to be able to increase the affordable housing units in this city,” Adler said. 

Environmental science junior Celine Rendon came to the forum to support the People’s Plan and listen to the community discuss their experiences with gentrification.

“I wasn’t born and raised in the Austin area, so I think it’s mainly important just for me to be here in support — just hearing people,” Rendon said. “I feel like a lot of students are mainly focused at the University … I think it’s really important, especially for us, to be aware.”