A city-commissioned study in Austin, Texas, found that urban design from almost a century ago cost Black residents in just five areas more than $290 million. The report comes at a time when American communities are more interested than ever in finding ways to address the legacy of housing discrimination.
The Austin City Council issued an apology for its past “segregation and systematic housing discrimination” last year and requested scholars from the University of Texas at Austin and Huston-Tillotson University, a historically Black university in the city, to examine the effects of such practices. The city’s 1928 master plan, for example, which established a “Negro District” and required Black residents to relocate east to access city facilities, effectively legalized residential racial segregation.
The first findings, which were reported by the Austin Monitor last month, were validated by a municipal official. Although it’s still not obvious how it would be set up or funded, local supporters want to use the data to put pressure on the city to create a center that provides social and economic services for Austin’s Black citizens and businesses.
According to Kellee Coleman, Austin’s interim chief equity officer, the report is “a tool for the community to be able to hold the government responsible for what it produced,” including “pervasive gaps” across health and economic measurements.
The study Austin requested is a part of a larger movement among American cities to address racial disparities in wealth and homeownership, which are a result of long-standing housing discrimination practices like redlining, where the federal government deemed majority-Black neighborhoods “hazardous” and refused to insure mortgages in and around them.
In American cities, residential racial segregation and its effects are still a problem. According to the Brookings Institution, community amenities and quality are unable to account for the difference in property values between majority-Black and non-Black communities in the average U.S. metro region.