People Gathering in front of Capital

History of the Equity Office

Austin has a long history of systemic racism and racial inequity that continues today. Throughout history, communities of color have been excluded, marginalized, and discriminated against as a result of City policies and practices. This history was reinforced by segregationist policies throughout the 20th century affecting a range of Austin venues, including schools, public parks, and commercial businesses, among others.

One of the most disheartening chapters of this legacy was the City of Austin’s Master Plan of 1928, which divided the City along racial lines by moving community services for African American and Hispanic/Latinx residents to East Austin. African-American and Hispanic Austinites who tried to settle in areas outside of the designated district were often denied access services such as utilities and public schools. Despite these challenges, communities of color in Austin thrived and developed strong, close knit, and vibrant communities.

While Austin was most recently recognized by US News and World Report as “The Best Place to Live in the U.S.,” the City consistently makes national lists as a city with severe inequality. In 1950, Austin was fourth in the country for the most income inequality. In 2015, the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute listed Austin as the most economically segregated city in the country. Legacies of displacement by wealthier white Austinites and lack of access to opportunity for people of color have marked the city with continued racial disparities.

In an effort to address racial inequity in Austin, City Council passed Resolution No. 20150507-027 in 2015, which directed the City Manager to evaluate the impact of existing city policies and practices on racial equity and develop an Equity Assessment Tool that can be used across City departments during the budget process.

The Equity Office was created in 2016 to focus on advancing equity in all aspects of City operations. The first Chief Equity Officer, Brion Oaks, began this work in October 2016.

See how we do this work here.

Equity Action Team

The Equity Action Team (EAT) is the community surrounding the Equity Office. Anybody who wants can join the EAT, whether they are City staff, a member of a local community organization, or just an individual who cares about advancing racial equity. The current roster is over 200 members. You can join the Team and find more information on the EAT Dashboard.

The EAT contains the individuals who organized and pushed for the creation of the Equity Office. Their first goal was helping the Office co-create the Equity Assessment Tool. Now, in monthly meetings the EAT functions as a compass for the Office, ensuring we remain accountable to the community.

There are three committees contained within the Equity Action Team: Parks and Recreation Support, Evaluation, and the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Support.

Parks and Recreation Action Plan Support

The Parks and Recreation (PARD) Action Plan Support Committee grew out of work that was done within the Community Engagement Committee over the summer. They collaborated with Parks and Recreation and studied the barriers to participation in Aquatics programming. The study unveiled a number of barriers for Eastside pools. Creating solutions to remove these barriers will be one goal that this group will tackle. Others will be items identified by PARD in their Equity Action Plan.


The Evaluation Committee primarily assists the Equity Office in performing quality checks on departmental Equity Assessments. Through this, they ensure departments are being thorough and responsive in their completed Assessments. This work is scheduled to be done again in June 2019. For January and February of 2019, they will be working with the Office to create a guide to help departments ensure their budget requests are advancing equity.

Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Advisory

The Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) Advisory Committee will work with NHCD Staff to build relationships with community, and ensure they are exposed to the lived experience of displacement and gentrification in their decision-making processes.