Do you know anything about urban planning? Yeah, neither do I. I’m going to learn. Our neighborhood is undergoing a long process that I’ve been involved in on and off for quite a while now. The process is called neighborhood planning, and it involves zoning and streetscapes.
As far as I can tell, the city seems to be working toward developing neighborhood pockets of mixed commercial and residential zoning with multi-level buildings like what we have going on downtown. They do ask for the input of the people of the neighborhood. There’s no doubt that the eye appeal of my neighborhood could be vastly improved.
However, what I’m greatly concerned with is affordability. If every neighborhood in Austin, and especially ours, since we’re labeled as a future core transit corridor (which means, as I understand it, that they anticipate that we will be a major hub for transportation) becomes gentrified, then eventually the poorest people cannot afford to live in the city.
Poorer people will be forced to the outskirts of town or to more affordable suburbs such as, for instance, Manor. This means that people who may already not have access to their own personal transportation, or to put it better, people who can’t afford to drive, or to drive legally, that is, will be forced into areas where public transportation is not offered or becomes very impractical since the commute times will be hellaciously long. Quality of living for people who already experience the lowest quality of living will lower even more.
No one seems to care. The city seems to have an agenda that will improve things but will also increase property values, perhaps, to the extent that some people will no longer be able to afford to live in the city. I’m all for trees and sidewalks. I like pretty. I can’t argue with better property values. I understand wanting all these things, but it also saddens me that this will make urban unaffordable for all except the most wealthy individuals. This has already happened in many neighborhoods surrounding us. Tiny crackerbox houses can cost as much as half a million dollars.
The saddest part of this equation is that the people who are going to be most affected by the decisions being made in these meetings are not, by and large, attending the meetings. The poverty stricken, the uneducated, the illiterate, the minorities and the immigrants are not exactly known for their civic mindedness. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, I’ve found that stereotype to be true.
So, I choose to be involved in this process because I myself want to continue to be able to live in the city. I don’t want to live in urban squalor, but I don’t want to be forced out so that the rich can enjoy their urban splendor, either.