Here, learn about gentrification. Gentrification happens when higher-income people move into a neighborhood and change it. Housing costs increase, making it hard for the people who used to live there to afford to stay. There are ways to try to remain in your neighborhood, like trying to lower your tax bill, building an accessory dwelling unit, or seeking low-income housing. You can advocate for policy changes and apply to community organizations for help.
What is gentrification?
Gentrification is a process of neighborhood change where higher-income and higher-educated residents move into a historically marginalized neighborhood, housing costs rise, and the neighborhood is physically transformed through new higher-end construction and building upgrades. This can displace vulnerable residents and change the neighborhood’s cultural character.
A core driver of gentrification in the U.S. has been the strong and growing demand for central city living by more affluent households, which drives up housing prices in central city neighborhoods. This broad-scale demographic shift is happening in many Texas cities, including Houston, Austin, and Dallas. City planning, economic development initiatives, and tax incentives fostering redevelopment in central neighborhoods are considered to be additional factors influencing gentrification.
Neighborhoods impacted by gentrification have been shaped historically by decades of discriminatory public policies and private real estate practices that undermined property values, facilitated substandard living conditions, and generated racially segregated housing patterns. These neighborhoods’ lower property values, location in the urban core near good jobs and transit, and historical and cultural character make them more attractive to newcomers and susceptible to redevelopment.
My property taxes have gone up. Is there anything I can do?
Yes, there may be something you can do to lower your property tax bill.
- You can apply for a homestead exemption. Additional homestead exemptions may be available if you are at least 65 years of age or disabled. There is also a special exemption for veterans who are disabled.
- You may be able to defer your taxes as long as you live in the home. To qualify for this deferral, you must be a senior, a person with a disability, or the surviving child or spouse of a senior or person with a disability. But be careful—all taxes and fees eventually become due. Also, any tax deferrals may violate your mortgage terms and open you up to immediate foreclosure.
Is there anything else I can do to stay in my neighborhood?
Accessory Dwelling Units: Income is often a main factor in having to move. Some cities have made it easier for homeowners to build rental units on their property and get rental income. These are called "accessory dwelling units."
Community Land Trusts: Some communities have organizations that buy land so they can sell affordable houses to those at risk of displacement. For example, the Houston Community Land Trust has built homes that sell to qualified buyers for around $75,000. Likewise, the Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation helps keep costs down for some East Austin residents. If your neighborhood is threatened with gentrification, you may want to see if there is a community land trust in your area.
Low Income Housing Tax Credit: If you rent, there may be low-income housing available. Many landlords have to provide a certain number of low-income rental units because they benefit from the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit.
Policy Changes: There have been successful policy efforts on both neighborhood and government levels. See the Texas Anti-Displacement Toolkit from the University of Texas School of Law to learn more about policy strategies and how community organizations have dealt with gentrification.
How do I apply for a homestead exemption?
A homestead exemption can lower your property tax bill by a lot. It can also help ensure your property taxes do not rise too much in the future.
Read Property Taxes and Homestead Exemptions for information on how to apply for a homestead exemption. Applications are free, and you only have to qualify once.
See also the Texas Comptroller's articles on additional homestead exemptions:
If you have inherited your home and are receiving only a partial homestead exemption, you can now obtain 100% of the exemption if you file an updated homestead exemption application form.
Should I apply for a tax deferral?
Taxpayers with a senior, general disability, or veteran disability homestead exemption are allowed to defer the payment of taxes on their homes until they die or no longer live in the home. There is a five percent annual interest fee on deferred taxes, compared to 24 percent on unpaid taxes that are not deferred. This interest is deferred until the home is sold or the owner dies.
When the owner dies, a spouse can continue benefitting from the deferral if the spouse is 55 or older or otherwise qualifies for an exemption.
If the homeowner’s children or other heirs live in the home upon the homeowner’s death, the deferral transfers to the heirs if they are also 65 or older, disabled, or otherwise qualify for the deferral. This means qualified heirs do not have to pay back taxes until they die or no longer live in the home.
- Tax foreclosure warning: Once the deferral ends, the person, spouse, or heir must pay all accrued taxes, penalties, and interest within 180 days. On the 181st day, the entire amount becomes delinquent, and the government may foreclose.
- Mortgage foreclosure warning: Those with an outstanding mortgage should check with their mortgage company to ensure the deferral does not violate the terms of the deed of trust. A deferral may allow the mortgage company to foreclose immediately if the home has a mortgage.
- To avoid foreclosure and unexpected payments, it is important that you talk to an attorney or a tax professional before applying for a deferral.
- Asking for a deferral: Use Form 50-126 or check with your appraisal district to see if they have a different form they want you to use. File the form with your appraisal district or assessor’s office.
What are accessory dwelling units?
One way to raise your income may be to become a landlord yourself. Austin and San Antonio have even made it easier for property owners to build smaller rental units on their property. These units are called "accessory dwelling units."
See San Antonio's rules on building accessory dwelling units.
See Austin's rules on building accessory dwelling units. See also The Alley Flat Initiative, a program that helps guide Austin property owners through the process of building accessory dwelling units.
Construction or rental activity must follow all laws.
Texas Anti-Displacement Toolkit
The University of Texas Law School has put together the Texas Anti-Displacement Toolkit publication on best practices to address gentrification. It includes policy strategies, tips for community organizers, and other options for those facing hardship due to gentrification.
This article discusses homestead exemptions.
This article explains how to get a homestead exemption on a property you inherited in Texas.
Buying a home through a long-term rental contract as opposed to a mortgage