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Austin names first official dedicated to helping economically, culturally displaced residents

Luz Moreno-Lozano
Austin American-Statesman
Austin City Hall

Austin now has a city official dedicated to making sure residents who get priced out of their neighborhoods can seek help and remain in the place they call home. 

Nefertitti Jackmon, the former executive director of Six Square, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve the cultural legacy of Austin’s Black Cultural District, became the Housing and Planning Department's first community displacement prevention officer on Wednesday.

Jackmon began working for the city of Austin in October 2019 as the Housing and Planning Department began allocating resources to address community recommendations in the city's displacement mitigation strategy.

The strategy includes more than 300 recommendations to help stop residents from being forced to move and defines displacement in three ways: direct, indirect and cultural displacement.

  • Direct displacement is when residents can no longer afford to remain in their homes because of rising rent or property taxes, or are forced out to make way for new development.
  • Indirect displacement happens when there is a change in who is moving into the neighborhood as low-income residents move out, which can be tied to discrimination against low-income residents or city polices that change the character of the neighborhood.
  • Cultural displacement is when longtime residents no longer feel a sense of belonging, which includes, racial, ethnic, and economic connections. 

Since 2010, Austin’s total population grew by about 19%, according to U.S. census bureau data. The city is largely made up of white and Hispanic communities, while the Black and Asian populations remain a minority in the general population.   

Nefertitti Jackmon, who has worked with the city of Austin since 2019, was named its community displacement prevention officer on Wednesday.

More:Hispanic flight from Austin tied to affordability, gentrification, experts say

But the city’s Hispanic population growth has become sluggish, growing only 10% since 2010. That is outpaced by both its Black and Asian populations, which grew 20% and 70%, respectively. The Black population also traditionally has been the third-largest community. But for the first time in at least a decade, Austin’s Black population fell below the Asian population, becoming the fourth-largest.  

In a growing city like Austin, trends of low-income and minority residents continue to face an increased risk of residential displacement. And even though Austin’s overall population has grown in the last decade, populations that make up the low-income and communities of color have declined, which some local experts have tied to affordability and cultural connection.

Using community studies, reports and assessments, Jackmon will oversee and implement the recommended mitigation strategies that will improve access to affordable housing for communities vulnerable to displacement such as streamlining the affordable housing application process, connecting eligible residents with other services and assistance programs, and providing legal assistance for tenants facing eviction.  

According to the city, more than $300 million will be dedicated to anti-displacement funding over a 13-year span, which was approved by voters in November as part of Project Connect Proposition A. The use of Project Connect anti-displacement funding will be guided by the Project Connect Equity Tool, which is in development. 

Related:Austin’s Asian community outnumbers Black residents for first time, Census data show

“Jackmon, in her role as the city’s community displacement prevention officer, will be instrumental in working with other city leaders and community members, who have started the work to create the equity tool for Project Connect,” city officials said in a statement.

She will work under the city's housing and planning department led by Rosie Truelove. In this role Jackmon will have staff working directly under her on whatever program or policies that are happening, but city officials said the size and dynamic of how her staff will work is unknown still.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Jackmon worked with city officials to assign more than $50 million in tenant stabilization services, including the Relief for Emergency Needs for Tenants program.

City officials did not immediately respond to a request for a copy of her employment contract made under the Texas Public Information Act.