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The City of Austin wants to pay people to help their neighbors stay housed

A "for rent" sign is leaning up against a housing complex.
Gabriel C. Pérez
The city will pay people $25 an hour to help educate and connect others to housing programs, including funding for those struggling to pay rent.

More than a dozen Austin residents could soon be earning an hourly wage to help others learn about local programs to help pay rent, avoid eviction or fund home repairs.

Running it as a pilot program, the City of Austin says it will hire 15 people at $25 an hour and provide child care for those who need it.

Those hired will work in two neighborhoods, Dove Springs in Southeast Austin and Colony Park in Far East Austin. In 2018, UT Austin researchers identified these parts of town as places where residents were susceptible to displacement — that is when housing prices in a neighborhood rise and residents move to find cheaper places to live.

“We are trying to empower community members right now to take care of what we need to know and what we need to do,” Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents much of East Austin, said at a news conference Thursday morning.

The City of Austin and local nonprofits have money to help renters avoid eviction and to help homeowners stay in their homes. Earlier this year, for example, the city received nearly $500,000 from the federal government to be dispersed to people struggling to pay their rent. City staff said those who are hired could be going door to door, handing out pamphlets and helping people apply for programs like this.

“Some of the barriers that our communities have is knowing how to access information on a website. We need to go beyond using technology as a way to communicate to the public,” said Nefertitti Jackmon, community prevention displacement officer with Austin’s Housing and Planning Department.

City staff said they are looking for people who speak languages other than English and live in these neighborhoods. Monica Guzmán, a policy director with Go Austin, Vamos Austin, which works in Dove Springs, said she hopes the city will also try to hire people who have struggled with housing costs themselves.

“If you have someone who’s never experienced it, they don’t know what it is to struggle,” she told KUT. “Someone who has been displaced has that lived experience.”

The city will fund this program using roughly $300,000 from the Housing Trust Fund, a pot of money siphoned each year from a portion of the city’s property tax revenue. Typically, these funds are used to buy, build or maintain affordable housing.

Applications for the program are open until April 30.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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