Friday, September 15, 2017 by Jack Craver

Anti-density org calls pro-CodeNEXT coalition a real estate ‘front group’

Community Not Commodity, a group that describes itself as advocating to protect Austin neighborhoods from changes that may come due to CodeNEXT (particularly more density), sent a message to supporters on Wednesday warning them of recent activity by activists associated with Evolve Austin, a group campaigning to develop a code that promotes a denser and more transit-oriented city. In the message, longtime activists Mary Sanger and Linda Bailey referred to Evolve as a “front group” for the Real Estate Council of Austin, the Austin Board of Realtors, the Austin Chamber of Commerce “and several other growth-regardless-of-consequences allies of the real estate industry.” Evolve’s mission, they asserted, was to influence nonprofit groups and City Council “to use CodeNEXT to increase real estate industry profits.” While RECA, the Austin Board of Realtors and other industry trade groups are among the supporters listed on Evolve’s website, the group also touts the support of dozens of groups that are not part of the real estate industry, notably environmental groups and anti-poverty organizations, such as Ecology Action, Environment Texas, the Austin Justice Coalition, One Voice Central Texas, TexPIRG, Bike Austin, Walk Austin and the Alliance for Public Transportation. Asked to respond to its characterization as a real estate front, Evolve directed the Austin Monitor to Austin Habitat for Humanity, one of its partners. “Many nonprofits in town want to see the same thing – a healthier, more affordable, inclusive and connected Austin – and it is empowering to know we can all work together with a collective voice to build a better Austin,” said Wayne Gerami, vice president of client services for Austin Habitat, in an email. “We are a part of Evolve Austin because we believe CodeNEXT is the biggest opportunity to create and see that vision become a reality.”

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