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  • Impact Austin

Discovery Days 2022: Session One Takeaways

Real People, Real Experiences

Our first session of 2022 Discovery Days was fast-paced and information-packed, generating so many questions and takeaways that we gladly ran over the allotted time. We are pleased to share this brief summary, while connecting the reader to greater details on the event video and links to some of the slides shared by speakers. The blog that introduced this session and our panelists is here.

Impact Austin member Carrie Maher introduced the session and speakers. The webinar was moderated by Council Member Vanessa Fuentes, Austin City Council District 2 (southeast Austin).

Panelists included:

Dr. Potter started the learning session with basic population changes between 2010-2020.

  • From 2010-2020, Texas population grew 15.9%, to 29,145,505. The growth percentage was greater than all states except Idaho and Utah, although the total number of people added was largest for Texas.

  • 87% of the state population lives along I-35.

  • 143 Texas counties lost population; dynamic population growth was in Central Texas.

Racial and ethnic contributions to Texas population growth during 2010-2020 included these:

  • 95.3% of our population change is attributed to people of color; only 4.7% is non-Hispanic white.

  • By 2020, Hispanic population size was nearly equivalent to non-Hispanic white, and by 2022, the Hispanic population is expected to exceed non-Hispanic white.

  • 48% of the population growth is due to natural increase (more births than deaths).

  • Domestic migration significantly affected the growth of Travis and Bastrop counties and, even more so, Hays and Williamson counties (among the top 3 counties for growth in TX). The biggest net sender is California, followed by Illinois, New York, and Florida.

Educational attainment of Texans 25 years or older, as of 2019:

  • With education after high school, the fast-growing Hispanic population lags behind all other ethnic groups. This is especially concerning because it’s the fastest-growing population group.

  • Comparing educational attainment rates in 2007 and 2019, all ethnic groups showed increases.

Household distribution (by census tracts between 2015 and 2019) noted:

  • Housing stock from 1970-2010 and later shows significant growth away from Austin city center.

  • Distributions of Austin ethnicities showed: Asian American population in northern Travis, south and central Williamson; African American population in east Travis; Latino population in southeast Travis, Bastrop, and Hays; and non-Hispanic white population in rural areas and west Travis.

  • The presentation discussed the intersection of racial distribution (by census tracts) with socioeconomic factors (type of work, foreign-born, English language spoken, educational attainment, language spoken, poverty level, household income, public transit usage).

Projecting to 2020-2050, the growth of Williamson County is expected to catch up to Travis County. Hays County will also continue to grow dramatically, but Bastrop County’s growth is relatively flat. Texas will have 47 million people by 2050. Hispanic population growth will continue to rise sharply, but Asian population will also grow quickly. Black population will grow more slowly than both those groups, and non-Hispanic white growth will flatten.

Council Member Fuentes reported that many of her constituents feels “left behind.” She is concerned that they should not be displaced, especially since many have generational ties to the district. While Central Texas’ growth is tied to a rise in the Hispanic population, Council Member Fuentes notes that the number of Latinos has declined 5% in her district, mostly due to displacement to other counties. She discussed the creation of a pilot displacement initiative, the Community Navigator Program. Among other assistance, the program advises homeowners and tenants of helpful resources, application assistance, and technical assistance.

Dr. Tielle described how demographic changes affect education (students, teachers, families, and facilities) in Del Valle ISD.

  • Current and future housing supply in Del Valle will experience exponential growth, with 33,971 future homes. They are outpaced only by Hays.

  • The “Tesla Effect” (and other incoming businesses) will put space and cost pressures on Del Valle ISD.

  • Del Valle had anticipated – and planned for – some growth, but not this much.

  • Overcrowding is already an issue. For example, Del Valle High’s campus was built for 3,380 students but currently holds 3,434 and will include 3,757 students next year. By 2026-27, student population will near 4,000. How do they prepare for a high school bursting at the seams? Where can they purchase land, when very little is available and when values are rising so sharply? Costs per acre that were previously $35,000/acre are rising to $150,000-200,000/acre. It takes 60 months to build a new high school; 30 months for a middle school; 24 months for an elementary school. Add to that the time to pass a bond. (And they just passed a bond in 2019!) The cost of new-school construction is also higher than in the recent past, thus solutions to crowding are increasingly costly.

  • Del Valle ISD is a “food desert." There are few corner grocery stores or big grocery stores than in other parts of Austin. Children’s food may come from gas stations.

  • Dr. Tielle also describes Del Valle as a "childcare desert." Pre-K programs are provided by the state for eligible students only.

Christina Rosales spoke to housing issues - affordability and availability - exacerbated by the COVID crisis. She urges that the priority for growth considerations should be on the people who already live here, not future residents. She noted the following:

  • Many of the people supported by the Austin Tenants’ Council are people of color, working people, and 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation residents.

  • People are being charged too much for housing. Corporate landlords are charging too much. Developers want to get as much bang for their buck. “It’s not just growth and the region’s popularity that are making it difficult for tenants. There are serious political and economic conditions that we have to contend with.”

  • The real estate industry is transforming urban life – most of it housing.

  • There is an imbalance of power, especially for tenants.

  • The Austin Tenants’ Council seeks to build tenants’ power, to level the playing field, give tenants more knowledge, help them build relationships for success in keeping their homes.

  • She recommends we read Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State

Council Member Fuentes noted that Austin is a majority renter city, so we must prioritize people over special interests.

Adriana Kohler spoke about children’s and families’ access to health care. Texans Care for Children advances policy changes, but does not provide direct services. Her presentation focused on maternal and child health. When measuring access to care, the following must be considered:

  • Health coverage – affordable insurance that covers what is needed

  • Awareness of programs and benefits – knowing options like Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, Marketplace

  • A strong network of providers – a growing population increases demand for doctors, nurses, mental health providers; adequate hospital staffing and capacity are needed

  • Care that is available at the right place and time – telehealth (helpful during COVID); transportation barriers; cultural relevance

Maternal health

  • Comprehensive coverage before, during, and after pregnancy will lower infant and maternal mortality. The greatest benefit will be to Black mothers and infants, currently with the lowest access to services.

  • 1 in 4 Texas women of reproductive age is uninsured – twice the national average. One out of every 4 uninsured women in the U.S. lives in Texas or Florida.

  • Texas has a “maternity desert” as staff shortages close rural labor and delivery units. These tend to be money-losers for hospitals, especially if mothers tend to be uninsured/Medicaid. (Council Member Fuentes noted there is no full-service hospital east of I-35 in Austin.)

Opportunities to improve the health landscape:

  • Protect state funding for Medicaid and CHIP

  • Invest in local organizations doing outreach and enrollment, like Foundation Communities

  • Support Medicaid expansion to offer coverage to lower wage workers, many of whom do not currently qualify

  • Support the Build Back Better Act

Council Member Fuentes asked panelists to offer the top takeaway for the webinar audience.

  • Adriana Kohler – Look beneath the surface of statistics to find disparities. Services for Black and Brown women are limited. We need to support the local organizations serving Black and Brown women.

  • Christina Rosales – When we think about housing solutions, center policies around those most in need: homeless and those with long-term housing instability.

  • Dr. Annette Tielle – Think about equity for families, what’s available in terms of food, child care, healthcare. Many can’t afford to pay their property taxes.

  • Dr. Lloyd Potter – Income inequality is a huge issue, and with it comes residential segregation. Look at what’s behind the income inequality: a history of racism and the consequences of that, like educational attainment, housing access, healthcare, and more. He sees educational attainment as a way to level the playing field.

Watch the full event here:


#JoinImpactAustin for upcoming Discovery Days sessions on February 4 and 18. Find details and registration link here. All Impact Austin events, plus a link to past events/recaps are here.


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