urban renewal

The History of Austin’s Urban Renewal Board

Why do people fight urban renewal? With such an innocuous name, it would seem like a positive influence for any given city desiring to attract and retain residents. However, the true legal story is that this phrase was used to assert dominance over certain parts of the population versus others. On July 23, 1959, city council made it known that there was to be public hearing to discuss the inclusion of urban renewal laws under city ordinances:

Publication requirement of a potential new ordinance

While “slums” and “blight” were very loosely defined, the city maintained the illusion of public participation by supposedly allowing a public hearing. Those who have read Not In The Plan will note that the NAACP was not recognized at a city council meeting before 1966, well after the establishment of the Urban Renewal Agency.

Illusion of public participation

According to city council, urban renewal was such an emergency that it required a special election:

Declaration of a special election

Not content with the illusion of public participation, the City of Austin created a voting stipulation for urban renewal policy which effectively acted as a poll tax.

Voting stipulation for the special election

Redlining, racial discrimination, and segregation meant that not all Black and brown people owned homes; today, rental properties still receive less voting consideration in terms of polling, other than the federally funded census. On December 7, 1959, the Urban Renewal Agency was established, paving the way for the urban renewal plans which decimated homes and infrastructure in multiple Black and brown communities in Austin.

For this reason, one step towards restorative justice in the City of Austin would be to hold a new election, and let the current populace decide if the city deserves the right to continue displacing people in favor of “economic progress.”

Timeline of Events Creating the Urban Renewal Board:

July 23, 1959: Notice of public hearing

October 8, 1959: Confirmation of special election

October 15, 1959: Qualifications on election participation

December 7, 1959: Ordinance established creating the Urban Renewal Agency

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