Dogs now outnumber children nearly 2-to-1 in East Austin. An abundance of dogs in the neighborhood doesn’t directly point to gentrification, but a steady decrease in children does.
Researchers from the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at the University of Texas presented their latest findings on the effects of gentrification Wednesday morning. The new report was prompted by a perception and question from residents surveyed in an initial study released in March: “Are there more dogs than children in East Austin?”
From 2000 to 2016, the number of children in the neighborhood between East Seventh and East 11th streets declined 14 percent, the new report concluded. Of the 171 single-family homes surveyed, researchers also counted 116 dogs and 66 children.
Among the findings:
• 46 percent of surveyed households have one or more dogs.
• 76 percent of surveyed households do not have children in them.
• From 2000 to 2016, the median family income in the neighborhood has risen from $28,929 to $69,570.
Dog ownership in East Austin is on par with the national average, said Eric Tang, a UT professor and researcher. Although the number of children has decreased, dogs are not replacing them — they are just more visible.
“It’s not as if the people living in this neighborhood are excessive dog lovers,” He said. “What’s really happening is there are so few children in the neighborhood that it makes it seem as if there is an abundance of dogs.”
For longtime East Austin residents, “neighborhood” now means something different, said Olivia Sullings, 22, a student researcher on the project. “There’s an overall disappointment. … Definitely a loss in the feeling of community, feeling connected — feeling like you know your neighbors.”
Donna Hoffman, 56, has lived on and off in the neighborhood since 1991. She said it’s unsettling to see displacement.
“It’s a heartbreak sometimes because I have neighbors who have had to move and have been pushed out,” she said. “I can understand why their families would need that money from the sale of the houses, but primarily there’s a lot of people who are there now, who have stayed and who would like to stay.”
For some residents, it is an economic burden to stay, but they are doing what they can to hold on to their homes.
“It’s not that it’s too expensive to leave, it’s just that this is their home,” Tang said. “They feel like they have a right to stay in their historic communities, and they will do whatever they can to stay in their communities despite rising property taxes.”
To repopulate the neighborhood with children again, affordability is key, he said: “If you don’t have affordable housing, you will not see this neighborhood repopulated with children.”