Austin Demolished: Visualizing Neighborhood Trends, 2000-2017

Housing demolitions are a ubiquitous reminder of Austin’s dramatic pace of change. Stroll through any of Austin’s older neighborhoods and you’ll undoubtedly come across homes in varying states of demolition and reconstruction. In certain neighborhoods, entire blocks have been razed and rebuilt (drop a pin at random in Chestnut).

Whether you accept demolitions as a prerequisite for infill or resent them as a consequence of gentrification, there’s no denying that the character of Austin’s neighborhoods is being remade before our eyes.

Having considered demolitions across council districts and parcels, I’ve been curious to somehow quantify the impacts of the demolition/construction boom at a neighborhood level. The below map attempts to do so by measuring the percentage of housing units demolished within Austin’s census tracts.

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Single-Family Housing Demolitions Austin, TX. 2000-2017. Source: US Census; City of Austin

The source data here are ACS 5-year housing estimates for 1-unit and 2-unit structures, referenced against single-family and two-family demolition permits issued by the City of Austin from 2000 through 2017. Clicking on any parcel reveals the year-over-year demolition totals within the tract.

Looking past Onion Creek (which was hit by two 100-year floods in less than two years), the neighborhoods that have seen the greatest percentage of homes demolished are largely in East Austin. The Chestnut census tract is the most extreme example, where the data indicate that nearly 20% of the homes have been demolished since the year 2000. Moving further east along MLK Jr. Blvd., year-over-year trends suggest that demolitions having spiked recently, a trend that presumably aligns with rising land values.

East Austin’s demolition rates me be the highest, but similar patterns can be found across the city. Bouldin tops all census tracts in terms of sheer number of demolitions — nearly 300 since the year 2000. And demolitions are clearly on the rise as you move further north or south from the city center, particularly in the census tracts south of Oltorf St. and North of Koenig Ln.

While it may not surprise you that demolition rates continue to rise throughout Austin, the data help illustrate the dramatic extent to which neighborhoods are being transformed. Whether Austin’s demolition and construction boom will ultimately lead to more affordable housing remains an open question. It will depend, most obviously, on whether or not the new housing that’s built is adding units, or just replacing old single-family homes with new single-family homes. That’s a question for a future blog post.

As usual, a big thanks is owed to the Leaflet and D3.js contributors for making this project possible.