A team of Austinites is wrapping up its first year of work helping their neighbors secure local housing resources and stay in their homes through a trial anti-displacement program, which could be expanded in the future.

The setup

Last year, Austin began recruiting people from Dove Springs and Colony Park—two neighborhoods identified as having more longtime residents who face substantial housing cost burdens—to serve as "displacement navigators" in their communities. The goal of the program was to connect homeowners and renters in need of assistance with relevant city supports to help keep them housed.

More than 200 people applied to serve on Austin's first navigator team. The program eventually launched last June with nearly a dozen navigators assigned to the Northeast and Southeast Austin neighborhoods, where they'd grown up or either lived in or near.

The program was first requested by council member Vanessa Fuentes in summer 2021 and eventually funded with $360,000 from Austin's Housing Trust Fund.

What happened

After three months of training, during which navigators learned about the city's housing resources, the team went on to spend hundreds of hours engaging with residents across the two communities.

In total, the city said navigators:
  • Distributed housing materials to nearly 2,900 households
  • Directly assisted 385 households
  • Attended 66 community events
"Navigators were involved in several outreach activities, including office hours at local libraries and recreation centers, as well as tabling at community events to provide information. This outreach helped Navigators connect individuals and families to resources that can help stabilize and prevent displacement from their homes and communities," said Housing Division Manager Marla Torrado, who led the pilot program, in an email.

What they're saying

The inaugural Colony Park and Dove Springs navigators and city staff were formally honored by City Council on May 30. During a recognition ceremony, Fuentes praised team members for their dedication and passion for responding to their neighbors' challenges in the face of significant housing costs.

“By building trust and visibility within Dove Springs and Colony Park, navigators serve as a bridge between our renters, our homeowners and the housing resources that we have here at the city," Fuentes said. "What we know is that for the last number of months, our navigators have been in the community. They’ve been at recreation centers; they’ve been at community events, and they’ve been providing that in-person, firsthand interaction directly with our community, with our neighbors who are at risk and facing displacement. And they’re connecting them with vital resources.”

What's next

The program's outlook has yet to be determined with its initial funding now used up, but city staff are starting to prepare for another round.

Torrado said she views the pilot as a success based on improved trust and relationships in the communities of focus, and for connecting residents with needed support. Next up, she said a comprehensive review of the initiative's first year featuring data and subjective analysis will help staff make adjustments as they prepare for its "second iteration."

The pilot officially concludes on June 23, and the evaluation is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.