El Paso Zoning Changes Could Bring Opportunity—or Displacement

Some residents feared proposed zoning reforms aimed at redressing historic injustices could harm residents in the short term.

1 minute read

November 20, 2023, 8:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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In a piece for Next City co-published with El Paso Matters, Christian De Jesus Betancourt explores the potential for El Paso’s zoning reforms to begin reversing the impact of historic decisions that impacted low-income neighborhoods and perpetuated discriminatory policies.  

“City officials say the aim is to create inclusive and healthy neighborhoods by targeting historic disinvestment and redlining through incentivizing infill and mixed-used developments, diversifying housing options, encouraging landmark preservation and expanding sustainable development practices.” But for some community activists, the zoning changes could bring displacement. For example, the hundreds of residents of one public housing complex vacated by the city under its Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program in 2019 are still waiting for temporary housing.

As the article explains, “The new codes — including amended setback standards, removing minimum parking requirements and legalizing existing tenements — could be adopted in April or July of 2024 and broken into two phases, with more straightforward modifications first, followed by larger ones after receiving feedback from the public.” If the city succeeds, it could be a first step toward regaining community trust.

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