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Gentrification Challenges the Long-Held Character of District 3

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Photos are courtesy of (counter-clockwise) Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT (top left, middle left) and Veronica Zaragovia/KUT (bottom two and top right)

Austinites have begun casting votes in the city's first election based on newly drawn geographic districts.

To help voters make their choice at the polls, we're looking at each of the city's 10 new districts and at some of their needs.

Today, we’ll look at District 3 – which includes big portions of Central Austin, but also goes east of I-35 and stretches into the Montopolis area –which is desirable, centrally located and one of the most gentrified areas of Austin.

Eliot Tretter is a former Austinite who teaches geography in Canada at the University of Calgary. But, before he left Austin a year ago, he published several articles and a book about the gentrification of East Austin. Tretter says gentrification – like many things – can’t be viewed in absolute terms of good or bad. What's clear, he says, is that it disproportionately hurts communities of color.

“They've largely not had a great deal of control in how their neighborhoods look,” he says. “And, if you look at other areas of Austin like Tarrytown [and] Hyde Park – where I used to live – they've had quite a bit more relative control over what their neighborhoods look like, how they change, and the forces that affected them.”

One of the forces affecting District 3 is the housing market. Jennifer Korba is with Realty Austin – an agent with 20 years of experience. She did an analysis comparing everything that sold in the district in 2009 to everything that sold in 2014.

That five years of data show a 70 percent rise in property values.

“Honestly, I'm shocked to see some of what I see over there. It just blows my mind,” Korba says.

She says her agents come back with stories of how challenging it is to secure a house for their clients, and that this year, homes are selling in 10 days as opposed to around 50 days just five years ago.

There are 12 candidates running in District 3, each hoping to be the new voice to unify the area and stabilize those changes that some say keep the district off balance.

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