Local issues

Part 1: Housing segregation in Austin – a product of government policy

MaoWatch the slide show of racial and economic housing segregation and the current housing policy decisions of the City of Austin.

My first job out of college was to direct a study of residential housing segregation in Austin for the City of Austin Human Relations Commission.  We documented a web of public policies that officially sought to concentrate racial and ethnic minorities and remove small minority communities from the path of higher income, white residential growth.

This official segregation policy was formalized in the Austin master plan of 1929 which made this policy explicit.

It would be reasonable to assume that these governmental practices have long since been abandoned in the wake of the passage of civil rights legislation and the Fair Housing Act in 1968.  Receipt of federal block grants are contingent upon cities, including Austin, certifying that the city will “affirmatively further fair housing”.  The city must submit a plan to the federal government accounting for the steps it will take to do so.

So we sat out to determine how the City of Austin’s policies today affirmatively further fair housing.  To do this Dr, Elizabeth Muller of the University of Texas at Austin and her graduate assistant Kate Bushman produced a series of maps to document…

  • Where racial and ethnic groups live in Austin
  • Where low-income people live in Austin
  • Where different types of affordable housing is located 

.

The results are presented in the attached slide show.  Racial and economic integration is not happening across Austin.  The long time segregated housing patterns persist to this day.  Most alarming, the current housing policies of the City are not only not affirmatively furthering fair housing but are actively reinforcing historical patterns of racial and econiomic segregation.

Tomorrow, in the second part of this posting I will offer an analysis of the causes and effects of this alarming pattern and suggest what Austin must do to overcome it.

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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