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Taskforce to stop Austin gentrification meets for first time

he new anti-displacement taskforce in Austin met for the first time Friday, setting up a foundation for their work over the next year. (Photo: CBS Austin)

The new anti-displacement taskforce in Austin met for the first time Friday, setting up a foundation for their work over the next year.

The Austin city council created the taskforce this summer to stop gentrification throughout Austin. They met for the first time in an east 11th Street building Friday morning.

“Just getting to know who’s on the taskforce,” co-chair Raul Alvarez said.

Alvarez said they were really working on logistics and figuring out what their goals are in their first meeting. The meeting went for a few hours and there was a lot of talk about what they want to accomplish.

Their plan is to meet monthly for ten months. The taskforce is made up of school board members, small business owners and others making up a diverse board designed to tackle this issue of gentrification.

“We have to be very strategic about how we approach it but I think we’re off to a good start,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said this is a problem facing all parts of Austin, not just East Austin. For him, he wants to help elderly homeowners with fixed incomes. These are people want to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives.

“They’re the folks who built our community,” Alvarez said.

“I think we have an obligation to help them make sure that that dream doesn’t get shattered just because the city as a whole is thriving,” he said.

Homeowners in East Austin say gentrification is a major problem. Some say their parents already had to move because of rising taxes. Then investors came in and built bigger rental properties.

“It’s a big change, big change we never thought it would actually come to this,” Graciela Lopez said.

Lopez’s grandmother owns a home by Sanchez Elementary. The 90-year-old has owned the house for 39 years.

“We’ve been here my whole life, I went to school across the street,” Lopez said.

Lopez said their property taxes went up $300 this past year. That’s why she’s happy this taskforce exists.

“It’s a good feeling we have people on our side,” Lopez said.

However, she doesn’t think it’ll help her neighborhood.

“It’s already done, you know. I feel like it’s too late. Because already everyone’s gone,” Lopez said.

The taskforce will meet the first Friday of every month. It also plans a meeting where the public can give comment in February.

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