May 30, 2016
By Syeda Hasan
A local advocacy group is hoping to shed light on the challenges faced by Austin’s Latino population.
Gilbert Rivera is starting to feel less at home in his neighborhood. For years now, the longtime East Austin resident has been watching the streets around him change.
“The diversity is disappearing rapidly, because with every McMansion, every condo, every one of those things that you see, every bar that’s gone up on East Cesar Chavez and Sixth Street, people of color are moving out,” he said.
Rivera is president of the Rosewood Neighborhood Contact Team. In 2001, the group of residents helped develop a neighborhood plan for the historically low-income area. Their goals included making Rosewood a more attractive and safer place to live, along with promoting affordability. But now, Rivera said, many residents are feeling financial strain as high-end development sweeps the neighborhood.
“We bought our house in 1983 for $39,000, right here on 12 th and Pleasant Valley, central city. Today my house is worth close to a half a million dollars. So is that affordability? Give me a break.”
Rivera is putting his support behind a new effort by the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. The group recently released a report on the State of Latinos in Austin, aimed at addressing economic and racial disparities. LULAC highlights a host of issues, including higher rates of unemployment, poverty and a lack of health insurance among the Latino population. Teresa Perez-Wisely is the group’s president.
“At a glance, Austin, Texas is a great place to live, learn, work and plan. But when you look closer, significant portions of our Latino community are being left behind,” Perez-Wisely said.
The report proposes policies like fast-tracking affordable housing development. Austin City Council Member Delia Garza said the analysis offers insight that other reports might miss.
“Our demographer gives reports about how our poverty rate is declining, and you would think that’s a good thing, but it’s not. It’s because they’re moving away. They can’t afford to live here anymore. So our poverty families are just moving to Pflugerville and Kyle and Buda. It’s not that we’re doing better to help these families, it’s that we haven’t done enough.”
Garza hopes to see these issues addressed by the city’s new Equity Office, which is set to begin operating this summer.