A former Austin councilman started fasting Tuesday and won't end it until he raises $6,000.
Raul Alvarez says he's not trying to make a statement about gentrification in east Austin. He's just trying to help longtime residents who can't afford to pay city and county taxes because of gentrification.
FOX 7 visited with 81-year-old Trinadad Estrada, who says she has plenty of bills to pay such as utilities and insurance, just to name a few. She says everything keeps going up including taxes she pays on her house on 4th Street in east Austin. It's a home that has been in her family for nearly 80 years.
"It's pretty hard cause I have to take some money out of my check instead of paying my bills," said Estrada. "More buildings around, my taxes will go up."
Alvarez wants to help long time east Austin residents like Estrada. He's part of East Side Guardians, a project that is trying to ensure east Austin is affordable for everyone. So at El Azteca, off 7th Street, Alvarez ordered his last meal until he raises $6,000.
"This is a choice that I'm making so I can better understand their situation. But they don't have a choice, they live this way month to month; can you imagine being in that situation? So that's why the fast," said Alvarez.
Earlier this year, East Side Guardians released a study showing a third of longtime residents of four central east Austin neighborhoods no longer owned their homes. Two thirds of long time homeowners still in east Austin have the 65 year old and over property tax exemption. Which means the majority of the latter group are likely on fixed incomes and can't afford the yearly tax and fee increases.
Alvarez says it's a worthy cause, one he admits his wife and two children had second thoughts about at first.
"She's definitely behind me 100 percent. My kids still think I'm a little crazy," said Alvarez.
It is craziness 81-year-old Estrada is grateful for.
"I appreciate it that they try to help," said Estrada.
"If it's seven days great, if its 10 days, not so great," said Alvarez.
Alvarez says he will have water and bread during his fast. He has a full time job and two young children and needs some energy.
The group already raised $19,000 and needs to $6,000 to get a matching $25,000 grant. To help or for more information, just go to Eastsideguardians.org.
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