For starters, here is a link to a policy guide from the American Planning Association on the kinds of steps we can take to address affordability and sustainability.
Hispanic population on the rise
population in Austin for the past few years, and Southwest Austin is
seeing that growth in action, city of Austin Demographer Ryan Robinson
He said a large number of middle-class Hispanic families are moving to
suburbs such as the Southwest Austin area south of Hwy. 71, west of
I-35, north of FM 1626 and east of FM 1826 rather than Central Austin.
“The overall level of residential segregation for middle-class and
upper-middle-class Hispanics is probably at an all-time low,” he said.
The Hispanic share of Austin City Council District 8, which includes
Oak Hill neighborhoods, grew from about 15 percent in 2000 to 18.5
percent in 2010, Robinson said.
“Now, probably one in five individuals [in District 8 is Hispanic.] …
And so I think that’s telling,” he said.
About 30 percent of Austin City Council District 5 in Southwest Austin
is Hispanic. In nearby districts 2 and 3, Hispanic populations are
greater than 60 percent, with large concentrations of Hispanic
residents east of I-35, Robinson said.
More and more Hispanic professionals are looking to Austin as a hub
for traditional Hispanic-owned businesses such as restaurants as well
as options in more high-growth industries such as technology, said
Mark Madrid, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber
“We are still on the heels of recovery from the recession, so all this
is going to impact the Hispanic community, the children in our schools
and the cultivation of Hispanic leadership. … But it’s also going to
affect our economy,” Madrid said.
The future of Austin
Surveys show the majority of residents younger than age 18 in Austin
are Hispanic, Robinson said, noting that majority has remained the
case since about 2009.
“This growth has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Robinson said.
In the next 20 years the Hispanic population could go from being a
minority to being a plurality in Austin—not a majority, but close to
50 percent of the population, he said.
Strong schools are among factors drawing Hispanic residents to
Southwest Austin, but lack of affordable family housing may push
residents further outward, Robinson said.
“I think what we are experiencing is a collapse of affordability in
this city,” Robinson said. “As affordability becomes a bigger and
bigger issue, a bigger and bigger obstacle to living in the central
city, that is indeed affecting some of our working-class Hispanic
households,” he said.
Austin’s poverty rate for 2012-13 dropped by about 3 percentage points
because Austin is displacing its poorest residents to other areas, he
said. Robinson said he would not call Southwest Austin “affordable,”
citing high home prices in Circle C in District 8 as well as in
“I think the housing is [also] becoming more expensive in District 5,
and that’s going to be a challenge for not just Hispanic families, but
any young families.”
At a March 30 Austin ISD board of trustees meeting, trustee Paul
Saldaña pointed out that 15 years ago Latino students made up 45
percent of the school district’s student population—children who live
within AISD’s attendance zone.
“Today, Latino students make up 60 percent of our student population,
and limited English proficient students make up now almost 30 percent
of our student population,” Saldaña said.
Saldaña urged moving forward with a district self-assessment on
equity, diversity and inclusion during the March 30 meeting.
AISD is also in the process of rolling out an extension of its
dual-language program to middle schools, and some trustees have said
dual-language programs could help attract and retain families in the
district, which has seen significant enrollment declines for the past
Spanish is the first language of more than 90 percent of AISD’s 23,000
English Language Learners, or ELL, students, said Olivia Hernández,
bilingual director for AISD’s department of ELL.
AISD launched dual-language programs in 2010 in elementary schools.
Starting with the 2015-16 school year, four middle schools will add
dual-language, including Paredes Middle School at 10100 S. Mary Moore
Searight Drive. Schools were chosen based on several factors,
“One of our challenges is to retain our bilingual teachers and recruit
more bilingual teachers,” she said.
As AISD is hiring teachers, the district is now looking for candidates
who have bilingual certification because they could potentially teach
some classes in Spanish, she said.
“We want to set the baseline in 2015-16,” she said.
It costs more money to educate ELL students, and AISD receives federal
and state funding to bridge that gap, she said.
Austin’s Hispanic population is not monolithic, as it includes
Mexican, Central American and South American influences among those in
the population, Madrid said.
In 2014 the GAHCC released its Hispanic Business Research Study data, he said.
“We have a projection through our study that there could be upwards of
50,000 Hispanic-owned businesses by 2020 in the [five-county] area,”
In early 2015 the GAHCC launched Small Biz U, an educational event for
entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
Madrid said AISD Superintendent Paul Cruz is the district’s first
Latino superintendent, and there are three Hispanic Austin City
“Things are changing,” Madrid said. “I think you see that pace
accelerated here. ... We want Austin to be a go-to place not only
because more people are moving here than any other place in the
country, but because there are opportunities here.”