- By Philip Jankowski American-Statesman Staff
As budget week kicked off Monday at Austin City Hall, a group of activists called for the City Council to fund their plan to fight off gentrification in the eastern part of the city.
Despite its proposed $58.3 million sticker price, the People’s Anti-Displacement Program would add no new spending to the city’s budget or take away any money from the general fund, the plan’s backers said.
Instead, it would earmark roughly $28 million from the proposed $250 million affordable housing bond to a list of items proposed by such East Austin activist leaders as Nelson Linder, the local NAACP president, and Susana Almanza, a City Council candidate for District 3 and the head of PODER. The plan also calls for the sale of the city-owned HealthSouth building near 12th and Red River streets for $30 million to pay for the rest of the program.
The group’s push for an earmark comes just as the City Council is set to approve a municipal budget this week. The sprint toward budget approval begins publicly Tuesday with a council meeting at 10 a.m. at City Hall.
The meeting likely will be the first of three back-to-back meetings this week, concluding with the budget’s final approval on Thursday. The council could approve the budget in its entirety Tuesday, though all previous 10-1 councils have used the full three days to complete the process.
City Manager Spencer Cronk’s proposed $4.1 billion budget calls for a 4.9 percent increase to the city’s property tax rate. The Austin City Council will approve a new tax rate with the budget but has already agreed to go no higher than a 6 percent increase.
The proposed earmark for the anti-displacement plans breaks down as follows:
The earmark presupposes the approval of a record-breaking $250 million affordable housing bond proposition, which is one of seven bond items being put to voters this November. All told, the bond package totals $925 million.
The so-called people’s plan was first announced in January — on Martin Luther King Jr. Day — in response to increasing gentrification in East Austin. Supporters say the program will counter social injustice and institutionalized racism that city officials have ignored or could exacerbate as a result of such proposed policies as the now-dead CodeNext, a comprehensive rewrite of the city’s land-use rules.
“This process (of gentrification) has continued, but yet no effective government intervention” has occurred, Linder said. “That’s unfortunate and has had consequences.”