In 1998, the mayor of Austin, Texas, began a campaign for “smart growth,” a strategy based on economic development initiatives and environmental protections. Smart growth advocates create policies that reward development that follows principles of “New Urbanism,” emphasizing walkable, transit-oriented, and mixed-use designs filled with green spaces. The American Planning Association adopted smart growth principles after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.
The city’s urban planning efforts have reshaped the downtown area by promoting a mix of housing types, including affordable and luxury units. The Eastside, for example, features many large residential buildings but is mainly unaffordable for many residents. While the population is growing in Austin, the number of new residential and redevelopment projects is decreasing. The city’s growth has been attributed to high-tech companies.
Gentrification is a process of neighborhood change that occurs when higher-income people move into an area, causing the displacement of lower-income residents and an increase in property values. This often happens in urban areas as older, affordable housing stock is replaced with newer, more expensive homes and businesses.
The effects of gentrification can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, it can lead to the revitalization of formerly run-down neighborhoods and an increase in property values. On the other hand, it can price out long-time residents who can no longer afford to live there.
In recent years, Austin has been experiencing significant gentrification. As the city has grown and become more popular, property values have skyrocketed. This has led to the displacement of many low- and moderate-income residents, as well as an increase in homelessness. The influx of new residents and businesses has had a positive impact on some neighborhoods, such as Downtown Austin and East Austin. However, it has also pushed out many longtime residents who can no longer afford to live there. This has led to increasing economic segregation within the city and a growing divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.”
Since the late 1990s, gentrification in Austin has coincided with urban political economies and spatial reorganization. As a result, Austin’s racial geography was more static, and de facto segregation was more intense. In the wake of gentrification, city leaders and real estate developers realized that the area could gain significant exchange values by redeveloping undervalued neighborhoods. Moreover, the process of gentrification has been accompanied by the displacement and dispossession of black and Latino residents.
The New Urbanist movement influenced Austin’s architecture and urban planning. It emphasized mixed-use zoning and historic preservation but also catered to white upper-class preferences. Urbanists advocate for inclusive, walkable, and sustainable cities with diverse neighborhoods. But there are still significant issues with gentrification in this city. This trend has made the town an “urban paradise” for some people and unlivable for others.