Tuesday, February 1, 2022

City Launches Anti-Displacement Initiatives for Project Connect

La versión en español sigue a continuación

The City of Austin is pleased to share a plan for the first round of Project Connect anti-displacement investments. This marks an important milestone in the disbursement of $300 million that voters approved in November 2020 as part of Proposition A. These funds will be spent over the course of 13 years, guided by the Project Connect Community Advisory Committee.

Today's announcement includes an allocation plan for $65 million in 2022, as well as the release of the equity tool and report that will guide distribution of the funds. 
Implementation Plan  
All Project Connect anti-displacement funds will focus on preventing displacement in risk areas within one mile of transit lines.  

“We must be smart, maximizing the effectiveness of our investments to stabilize vulnerable residents,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, City of Austin Community Displacement Prevention Officer. "Using both qualitative data from the workshops with the Catalysts, and quantitative data from neighborhood-level maps, we can be better informed about where investments are deployed and prioritize Project Connect anti-displacement funds to protect those most at risk of displacement. The Tool and the report remind us to center equity as funding decisions are made.”  

The initial investments have been divided into three focus areas: 

Land Acquisition 
$23 million is available for land acquisition. This includes $8 million in loans to eligible 501c3 nonprofit organizations through our new Community Acquisition Program to preserve and develop affordable housing as well as purchase small sites for future development. Applications opened in December 2021 and will remain open until all funds have been allocated. Remaining funds will be used by Austin Housing Finance Corporation to acquire multifamily properties and extend or preserve affordability along Project Connect lines.   

Land Development 
$21 million will support the acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction of affordable housing. The funds will provide private and nonprofit developers with state tax incentives and bonds and be administered through the City’s Rental Housing Development Assistance (RHDA) and Ownership Housing Development Assistance (OHDA) programs. This funding is expected to be available in May 2022.  

Community-Initiated Solutions  
$20 million of community development funds will be available through a competitive process for community-initiated, neighborhood-focused programs and projects. These strategies are designed to prevent the displacement of tenants and homeowners and create economic mobility opportunities. This funding is expected to be available in Spring 2022.  

Remaining funds will be used to administer the program. 

“The planned release of $65 million in anti-displacement investments this year is a key step toward ensuring that the Project Connect expansion program provides communities throughout Austin with critical transit improvements while mitigating any unintended displacement pressures,” said Awais Azhar, chair of the Project Connect Community Advisory Committee.  “The equity-based approach utilized in developing this initial anti-displacement funding plan reflects the commitment of all Project Connect partners to developing an equitable program that serves all Austin residents, including those who are most vulnerable.” 

Nothing About Us Without Us Report, Tool, and Map Series  
The Nothing About Us Without Us report, map series, and Racial Equity Anti-Displacement Tool serve as the guiding framework for developing investment strategies. The report and map series lay out the vision and purpose of the Tool, describe how it was developed, demonstrate where it applies, and provide examples of how it can be implemented.  

The process of developing the Racial Equity Anti-Displacement Tool prioritized the voices of people most impacted by displacement. After months of collaboration between City staff and community members—referred to as Racial Equity Catalysts—the Tool was created to help reduce potential negative impacts associated with Project Connect. It will be used to inform the scoring criteria for the Community-Initiated Solutions’ application process. The team of City staff who worked alongside the Catalysts is made up of representatives from a variety of departments including divisions within the Housing & Planning Department, the Equity Office, Project Connect Office, the Innovation Office and the Economic Development Department. 

The City recognizes the hard work of the Racial Equity Catalysts. Thirty community members were selected from 117 applicants, contributing a total of nearly 950 hours. Catalysts participated in two training sessions and five policy workshops to co-create the Tool over four months. To develop the Tool, the Catalysts reviewed displacement data and gathered lessons learned from other cities that have experienced transit-induced displacement.  

Ways to be involved  
Community members are encouraged to read the Nothing About Us Without Us report, explore the Tool and map series, and learn more about the Anti-Displacement funds, by visiting www.austintexas.gov/department/project-connect-anti-displacement-initiatives. Also, anyone who is interested in discussing how the Tool will guide the use of funds, Learning sessions will be available.  Stay informed on the progress of these initiatives by joining the Project Connect anti-displacement email list: https://bit.ly/antidisplacementupdates 

Project Connect is a comprehensive transit system that will include new and expanded rail lines and bus routes. The transit investment is expected to bring significant benefits to communities throughout Austin. However, these improvements can spark new development, attract higher-income residents, and increase property taxes, rents, and business costs. What was once an affordable area may become unaffordable to low-income families, small business owners, and other vulnerable groups and lead to displacement. To limit these undesirable impacts, Proposition A included a commitment of $300 million toward anti-displacement strategies and investments related to Project Connect. 

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