Were you aware that Austin’s housing authority is the oldest in the nation? And that Rosewood and Santa Rita Courts are the oldest United States Housing Authority developments in the country? Construction began in 1938 and was completed in 1939. Not only was it the first modern housing in Austin, it was the first multifamily housing! This historic public housing project in the heart of East Austin is now being threatened with demolition and gentrification. Here are four reasons (of many) preserving Rosewood Courts helps tackle Austin’s gentrification and housing problem.
- PUBLIC HOUSING SHOULD BE MODERNIZED AND IMPROVED, NOT DEMOLISHED
In 1992 the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing recommended MODERNIZING AND IMPROVING our public housing stock, not demolishing it. When Rosewood Courts was built in the late 1930’s the land was barely within the Austin city limits. Now it sits in the heart of the 78702 zip code, one of the most gentrified zip codes in the entire nation. The effort to demolish Rosewood Courts is really about a political agenda to open what’s left of Austin’s New Deal legacy to private investment and to repudiate the legacy of Lyndon B. Johnson, the person responsible for bringing the housing to Austin.
- ROSEWOOD COURTS PLAYED A CENTRAL ROLE IN THE SEGREGATION OF AUSTIN
Rosewood Courts was built atop Emancipation Park, Austin’s original Black-owned Juneteenth Parade Ground. In keeping with the infamous 1928 Austin Master Plan that segregated the city by race, the city council appropriated the land to build Rosewood Courts via eminent domain and rezoned it to construct the housing
project. In the end Austin’s Black community welcomed the construction of the low-rent New Deal housing project, but the injustice entailed in its construction has never been forgotten.
- ROSEWOOD COURTS IS STILL IN USE
At a time when our housing affordability problems are at levels not seen since the Great Depression, it is important to realize and understand why public housing remains America’s oldest and original affordable housing program. Seventy-five years after its construction during President Roosevelt’s New Deal, Rosewood Courts still furnishes safe, decent and affordable housing for dozens of Austin families. And the housing is TRULY affordable: your rent is fixed at a percentage of your income. TAX CREDIT HOUSING IS NOT PUBLIC HOUSING and serves a higher income population.
- PUBLIC HOUSING IS A NECESSARY “PUBLIC OPTION” FOR A REAL ESTATE MARKET ON STEROIDS
Empirical social science research since the 1920’s has shown that the private sector has no viable business model to address the worsening housing needs of families with extremely low incomes that are between 0% and 30% of the HUD Median (the 2013 HUD Median for Travis County is $73,200). This is not a problem of
supply and we cannot build our way out of the fundamental realities of an unequal economy based on low wage jobs that do not pay a livable wage.