Excerpted From: Kaylie Hidalgo, Keep Austin ... White? How Equitable Development Can Save Austin, Texas from its Racist Past and Homogenized Future, 9 Texas A&M Journal of Property Law 107 (April 5, 2023) (272 Footnotes) (Full Document)


KaylieHidalgoRacial segregation in cities throughout our nation still exists to this day. While exclusionary zoning and discriminatory lending practices known as redlining created these racial divides, racism's effects have not disappeared simply because these practices became outlawed over 50 years ago. The denial of homeownership and investment into Black and Latino communities while White neighborhoods saw remarkable improvement in job opportunities, schools, and equity in their homes, has created a stark racial wealth gap. As of 2021, 74% of White households owned their homes, while only 44% of Black households, 48.3% of Latino households, and 60.2% of other ethnicities owned their homes. effects of discriminatory zoning and lending practices that first created segregation have now led to the trend of Blacks and Latinos moving out of their segments of cities and into surrounding suburbs due to rising housing prices and property taxes that they are unable to afford. This trend is especially rampant in Austin, the only fastest-growing city in the nation losing people of color. If this trend continues, Austin faces the risk of becoming a homogenized, White city with Blacks and Latinos segregated to surrounding suburbs but still forced to travel into Austin's city limits for opportunities lacking in the suburbs, such as jobs and community events.

Article explores the history of redlining and other discriminatory practices that led to segregation and created the racial wealth disparities we see today. In particular, it focuses on how this occurred and the effects these policies and practices had in Austin, Texas. Part II discusses the origin and history of redlining on the federal level and then explores the history of discriminatory practices in Austin, Texas, specifically. Part III explains the effects these practices had on Austin, Texas, and people of color, focusing on Blacks' and Latinos' movement out of Austin due to unaffordability and other related factors. Part IV begins by identifying current reforms that Austin, other cities, and private groups are using to address housing affordability issues and racial disparities that are ineffective or insufficient for closing the racial wealth gap and providing access to affordable housing opportunities. Part IV concludes by recommending that the federal government and cities like Austin undertake equitable development, discussing what that means, its emphasis on involving the community in decisions that will directly impact them, what potential tools exist to accomplish these ends, and finally emphasizing the strategies Austin should employ in different areas of the city.

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This Article sought to examine this nation, and more particularly, Austin's history of racist housing policies that are not as of the past as people believe or wish. While we no longer see new neighborhood developments displaying statements such as the famous Hyde Park sign that says, “where lots are sold only to white people,” that does not mean that racism in housing or neighborhoods does not exist to this day. Overt forms of housing racism, such as exclusionary zoning, racially restrictive covenants, and the Austin Plan of 1928, evolved throughout history into more covert discrimination, such as redlining and urban renewal. Today, possibly the most covert forms of housing discrimination exist to cope with society partially waking up to systemic racism, taking the form of reverse redlining, subprime lending, or predatorial contract-for-deed arrangements. The aftermath of over a century's worth of discrimination is a large racial wealth gap between Whites and Blacks and Latinos and segregated cities across the nation. These effects are especially drastic in Austin, Texas, where a nonunique pattern of discrimination created an iconic and identifiable segregationist split thanks to the construction of I-35 but has transformed into a unique pattern of Blacks and Latinos moving to surrounding suburbs to cope with the rising living costs that are untenable due to their lack of generational wealth.

However, examining the racist history of both national and local housing policies was only part of what this Article aimed to address. While recognizing our racist history is a crucial first step towards a solution for affordable housing issues and the racial wealth gap, alone, it is insufficient. Thus, this Article also sought to identify the ongoing reforms attempting to grapple with these problems and why they fail to progress us towards a resolution. More optimistically, this Article also explored a more promising route, equitable development. This strategy is flexible and can utilize any of the tools discussed with the only requirement that its focus is on community-based development with the intentional and primary goal of eliminating existing and preventing future racial inequalities. While equitable development must be executed at the local level, local funds are unlikely to support the far-reaching developments that are needed to achieve equity, and thus, financial and policy support from the state and the federal government is necessary for efforts to be successful. Lastly, this Article strived to identify what specific strategies Austin should undertake and where to desegregate its city to bring people of color back, particularly in high-opportunity areas, and to ensure that future displacement does not occur.

In conclusion, while Austin is the tenth most income-segregated city in the nation and the only fastest-growing city in the nation losing people of color, if it utilizes tools identified by this Article, using the same intentionalism to reverse the effects of housing discrimination that were used to create them in the first place, Austin can stop the trend of people of color moving and prevent becoming a homogenized city.

Kaylie Hidalgo is a J.D. Candidate at Texas A&M School of Law with a graduation date of May 202