Austin 'Right to Return' Policy Implemented for the First Time

A North Austin development will be the first approved under the city's new Right to Stay and Right to Return policies, aimed at preventing displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods.

2 minute read

September 16, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Emily Nonko reports on a proposed development in North Austin that "will triple the size of a small existing park, add retail and non-profit space, and build hundreds of affordable homes with Austin’s new Right to Stay and Right to Return policies, which allow working-class families currently living in the gentrifying neighborhood to find permanently affordable places to stay, and also allow displaced families with historic ties to the neighborhood to be preferred for affordable units." The Austin City Council passed the policies in 2018 in an effort to help "families affected by gentrification in certain Austin neighborhoods."  

The lot in the St. John neighborhood was bought by the city in 2008 with plans to build a police substation and courthouse, but "plans stalled and opposition grew." After years of community activism and outreach, "private developer Greystar will partner with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin to build at least 560 housing units, half of which will be for households earning between 50 and 70 percent of Austin’s median family income." The developer will also enhance an adjacent park, build "at least 15,000 square feet of retail and 'support services space' responsive to community needs," and pay off a $10.8 million bond owed on the property.

Although the actual effectiveness of the policies is yet untested, Councilmember Greg Casar hopes the project "can really serve as a model of how we can develop dozens more acres of city-owned property, where we get the housing stock we need so that people can come back to neighborhoods they’ve been pushed out of."

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