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City prepares to announce community-led anti-displacement projects

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 by Jonathan Lee

The details are coming into focus on proposed partnerships between the city and community organizations to prevent displacement along Project Connect transit lines. 

Nefertitti Jackmon, the city’s community displacement prevention officer, described the efforts during a joint meeting of the Planning and Zoning and Platting commissions on Tuesday.

“Community-based organizations and people who are closest to the problems often have the solutions in terms of how to address their needs,” Jackmon said. “So it’s a very different approach; it’s a more bottom-up approach.”

As part of Project Connect’s $300 million in anti-displacement funds, the city will give a total of $20 million to 16 local nonprofits. The organizations will then pursue strategies to keep people who live near existing and future transit lines in their homes.

“​​The goal is to really help prevent the displacements of households specific to transit-induced displacement pressures, and really looking at what we can do in the short term to address displacement pressures,” Jackmon said. 

City officials and community members fear that increased demand for homes near the transit lines could lead to higher rents and property values (and taxes). New development is also likely near transit lines. 

The funds must be spent within one mile of a Project Connect station or line and in an area vulnerable to displacement. Only households are eligible, not businesses.

The city will announce the recipients and how they plan to use the funds on Sept. 22. A panel of 25 community members, as well as the Project Connect Community Advisory Committee, evaluated the 88 applications the city received. 

Community members have been heavily involved in how the city spends the $300 million fund, which Jackmon called “one of the largest investments (of its kind) to date by any city.” Together, the city and community members developed an “equity tool” in order to foreground the needs of communities of color and those vulnerable to displacement. 

So far, the city has earmarked $65 million – $20 million for community-initiated solutions as well as $23 million for land acquisition and $21 million to fund affordable housing projects. The city will allocate a total of $100 million in the first three years of the program. After that, the city plans to release $20 million annually through fiscal year 2033. 

The contracts with nonprofits are initially just for a year. The city can then choose to renew contracts for up to two more years, depending on outcomes during the first year. Jackmon said the partnerships are held to the same high standard as any other city partnership.

While the community-led solutions may help prevent some displacement in the near term, city officials say longer-term solutions are also needed. To this end, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority is working on equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) plans, which could eventually lead to zoning changes and affordable housing incentive programs that would allow more people to live near transit lines while preserving and creating affordable housing.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been updated to clarify that money has yet to be allocated for projects.

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