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Photo by Austin Transit Partnership

Nonprofit groups getting $20M in Project Connect funds to prevent displacement

Tuesday, October 4, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The city has named the 14 nonprofit organizations that will use $20 million in funds from Project Connect to enact community-level programs to prevent displacement as the massive transit system moves forward.

Last week, the city’s Affordable Housing Finance Corporation approved the awards, which will be drawn from the $300 million in anti-displacement, affordable housing funds included in the voter-approved plan. The full list of recipients, award amounts and project descriptions is available here.

Some of the larger grants of $2 million were given to Goodwill Industries of Central Texas, Workers Defense Project, Business & Community Lenders, El Buen Samaritano, and Life Anew Restorative Justice.

The grants are part of the $65 million in anti-displacement funding that Project Connect leaders said earlier this year they expect to deploy through the end of 2022.

Applicants submitted their proposals for the grants in June, entering a three-step judging process that included a community evaluation based on the Nothing About Us Without Us equity report. The city’s Community Advisory Committee took the final step of making funding recommendations for the AHFC to approve.

Mayor Steve Adler, who sits on the AHFC board, said the city’s approach to addressing displacement while moving forward with an ambitious public transit project has earned admiration from politicos at all levels, including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

“It’s exciting to see these dollars spent in this way. I know that the fact that we made this a line item in Project Connect is something that is reverberating around the country,” he said. “The secretary of transportation was in town last weekend and mentioned it again himself, and talks about it around the country in terms of commitments that would be great if we were seeing happening all over the country. It’s a great model and a great way to step forward.”

In a prepared statement, Nefertitti Jackmon, the city’s displacement prevention officer, said the grants will allow groups that are closely involved at the community level to address the housing stability issues they see every day.

“This is a historic initiative for our city, to leverage anti-displacement dollars over the next three years, with 14 organizations, addressing the needs of households with children living in poverty, financial literacy programs, expansion of community land trusts, estate planning programs, support for the expansion of home ownership opportunities, and more,” she said. “Our department would not have been able to release such a robust array of programs all at once and have the same reach and impact as these organizations will have. This is what we can achieve as a city when we co-create with community.”

Drew De Los Santos, program director for Austin Cooperative Business Foundation, said the $516,206 from the city will be used to assist the resident owners of the 250 manufactured homes in Asociación de Residentes de North Lamar with maintenance and other activities involved in property ownership.

“Part of the solution that we see is resident ownership, but it takes more investment and work to maintain something long-term,” she said. “We want to keep people in place through supporting property ownership and what that ownership means, which is repairing plumbing and making sure the community has good lighting and having a community center potentially so that people want to stay and can stay and be healthy and safe in their homes.”

De Los Santos said the addition of major transit to the area puts long-established businesses and neighborhoods at risk of being wiped away by redevelopment pressures. The grant money is one step to help residents improve and solidify the community.

“Our project is about preventing displacement in an area where these residents are being targeted for gentrification because they live in an area that’s close to a transit line. With property ownership comes a lot of upkeep so we’ll be working on repairs and also leadership development so more folks in the property feel confident to make decisions about what’s best for the community.”

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