Axios Austin

Picture of the Austin skyline.
January 26, 2022

🐪 It's Wednesday.

☀️ Today's weather: Mostly cloudy with a high near 55.

Situational awareness: Jose "Chito" Vela defeated six other candidates with 59% of the vote in a special election to replace Council Member Greg Casar.

  • Vela, an immigration lawyer, will represent Austin's North-Central District 4, which includes a small area of Windsor Park to the south, runs between Lamar Boulevard and Dessau Road and stretches north to Braker Lane.

1 big thing: Wealth gap impacts Texas homebuyers

Data: Zillow analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA); Map: Baidi Wang/Axios
Data: Zillow analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA); Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

Hispanic Texans have one of the highest rates of mortgage denials in the country, with 19.1% of their applications denied.

The big picture: Mortgage applications submitted by Black and Latino Texans were disproportionately rejected compared to their white counterparts in 2020, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data analyzed by Zillow.

Why it matters: Homeownership is a primary way to build wealth, and non-white Americans have historically been shut out of this opportunity due to systemic racism and segregation policies.

  • This has created a racial generational wealth gap that persists into the 21st century.

By the numbers: According to Zillow's report, 18.7% of Black mortgage applicants in Texas were denied in 2020, compared to 11.2% of white applicants.

What they're saying: Deep-seated issues, current and historic — including Austin's 1920s discriminatory planning decisions — have driven a wealth gap that makes it harder for Black and Latino people to get mortgages, Nora Linares-Moeller, executive director of HousingWorks Austin, an affordable housing organization, tells Axios.

  • "When the system is set up to discriminate, it's hard to change it," Linares-Moeller said.
  • "People of color haven't had opportunities to gain wealth in their families. Mortgages years ago were set up so Black families couldn’t own their homes or types of loans they got didn't allow them to get wealth from those mortgages. And then people weren’t able to inherit and get wealth from a parent. We're all guilty — the city of Austin is guilty," she added.

Zoom out: Across the country, the denial rate for Black applicants was 19.8% versus 10.7% for white applicants.

Go deeper: Race and housing in America

2. Mourning Texas French Bread

A photo of a destroyed building from a fire.
The aftermath of the fire on Jan. 25. Photo: Nicole Cobler/Axios

Tuesday was a day for grieving after the iconic Texas French Bread restaurant went up in flames.

  • Once upon a time, in its incarnation as the Rome Inn, the building was a classic hang-out, where Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Lou Ann Barton and scores of other musicians performed.
  • In recent years, the restaurant had been an airy getaway where UT kids went with their visiting parents and lobbyists headed for a bite away from the Capitol.
  • "[Impossible]," Harvey Kronberg, editor of the Quorum Report, wrote on Twitter. "Decades in Austin. All old Austin went there."

Our favorites have long been the lemon pound cake and the sour cream coffee cake. When Asher's wife's family comes back to Austin from far-flung spots around the globe, the kitchen counter is a traffic jam of TFB baked goods.

  • Yes, but: Even though the building was totaled, we're rooting for a TFB comeback.

What they're saying: "We are devastated at the loss of our bakery and restaurant, but forever grateful that our employees walked out unharmed," Texas French Bread posted on Instagram after the Monday fire.

Of note: A GoFundMe has been created for the employees.

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3. 🤠 The Roundup: Wrangling the news

Illustration of a pattern of bats that turn into the Axios logo.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🎶 Bob Dylan will play Bass Concert Hall in March during SXSW. (KXAN)

📚 A conservative scholar who called Biden's 2020 election a "literal coup" is helping the State Board of Education review social studies curriculum standards for public schools. (Austin American-Statesman)

🚘 Using drones, a retired Air Force pilot has obsessively documented construction of Austin's Tesla "gigafactory" — and thinks it's about to produce its first cars. (Texas Monthly)

Wake up to a brighter future

Finding, connecting, building success with our Job Board.

  1. Senior Designer at Outdoor Voices.
  2. Senior Software Developer at Planview.
  3. Strategy & Operations Manager at Rev.

Want more opportunities? Check out our sponsored Job Board.

4. My very best Austin day with Meetesh Karia

Photo illustration of Meetesh Karia shown with the Austin skyline.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals; Photos: Asher Price/Axios and Peter Tsai/Getty.

We recently caught up with Meetesh Karia, chief technology officer and chief data officer at The Zebra, an East Austin-based online insurance adviser valued at $1 billion as of last year.

  • Over lunch at LeRoy & Lewis, the barbecue trailer off South Congress Avenue, Karia declared that the beef cheek was terrific: "It's really tender, but doesn't feel fatty." There, we talked about the insurance business and the best pizza in town.

What characterizes The Zebra as an Austin company?

The biggest thing is our motto — and what we live by — "all stripes welcome."

Walk me through your best Austin day.

I picked up road cycling in 2017 ... so I'd start the day getting in a nice, good ride with some friends — we could go down to San Marcos and back. Coming back, we'd stop at Lazarus on the East Side for a beer and the chilaquiles.

Read more

5. Guess how many Austinites will compete in the Winter Olympics

A photo of four people pushing a bobsled.
Austinites are not commonly known as great bobsledders. Photo: Caroline Seidel/Getty Images

We scoured the USA Olympics team roster for Austin-area hometowns.

Driving the news: It's that time of year when news organizations profile hometown heroes.

What we found: Austin has none.

  • Of note: The USA Paralympics roster will not be announced until Feb. 19.

By the numbers: More than two dozen Austin-area athletes went to last summer's Olympics in Tokyo.

Scientifically speaking: The best explanation for the representation gulf is that we rarely get snow in Austin.

Why it's okay we didn't make the grade: Save for the occasional world-beating hockey upset, knee-cudgeling figure skating intrigue or short-track speed-skating collision derby — we miss you, Apolo Anton Ohno! — the Winter Olympics is the lesser Olympics.

  • There, we said it.

❤️ Nicole is grabbing dinner and a churro at La Mexicana.

🎧 Asher is listening to "The Rewatchables" podcast episode about the sports movie "Miracle."

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