BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) – Recent SpaceX activity has sparked a wide range of emotions in the community.
While some are excited about the opportunities brought to Cameron County by the aerospace company, others worry that its presence may have unintended consequences.
The concern was evident at the Brownsville City Commission Meeting on Tuesday. Every resident present for the public comment period expressed their concerns about the presence of SpaceX in the community.
Gentrification, the process where low-income communities are transformed by incoming wealthier residents that eventually displace the original inhabitants, was a concern frequently touched upon.
“We will not accept the gentrification of downtown Brownsville, we will not accept the displacement of the majority of low-income people in downtown Brownsville,” said Brownsville resident Nansi Guevara during the meeting.
Elon Musk called for migration of people to work for his aerospace company in Brownsville last week following a tweet promising $30 million to Cameron County.
The Twitter announcement happened only minutes after the Starship prototype SN11 explode during the decent period in its high-altitude test.
The praise expressed by city officials about the tweets was criticized by residents during the meetings; some saying that the amount was offensive and only a drop in the bucket for the multibillionaire.
“The 10 million donation he offered on downtown revitalization through Twitter isn’t even going to help locals besides those that already own businesses downtown, such as Mayor Trey Mendez. Brownsville has people who are houseless, people who are hungry,” said resident Chris Sandoval, who recently put forth research on the effects of SpaceX presence on the environment and economy.
As many people have already moved to the area, housing is already scarce, and prices are going up. KVEO reported earlier this week real estate in Brownsville and South Padre Island is selling fast.
Salvador Contreas, Economist and Associate Professor of Economics & Finance at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, says that is not necessarily a need for concern just yet.
Contreras points out that while much of the available real estate is being bought up, it is due to a housing shortage caused by the pandemic that is not region-specific.
“There’s likely to be a good number of people who have to come from outside the RGV, and they have to be housed here somewhere, right. So, I can see the concern that this has brought to many residents in Cameron County,” said Contreras. “However, I’m more hesitant. I don’t believe that this is likely to lead to any large-scale gentrification of the region.”
Furthermore, he says much of the area where SpaceX employees could potentially move to is underdeveloped, with plenty of opportunities to build new homes without the need of displacing residents in particular areas, and they may not even be in search of houses.
“It’s far more likely that people that come to the region [are] likely to look for temporary housing like an apartment living and less so single-family living,” said Contreras.
“It may become an issue down the line but in the immediate future, and that is in the next five to 10 years, I don’t see large pockets of Cameron County pushing existing residents out of their homes to make room for people from outside.”
Mayor Trey Mendez was unavailable to provide an answer to whether or there is a plan to prevent gentrification in the long term. We will update this story if a response is gathered.