Four out of five Dallas Police and Firefighters do not live in the city and overall nearly two thirds of city employees live elsewhere.
The numbers demonstrate the challenge Dallas has attracting and keeping middle class families in the city. They are a concern for Dallas leaders who suggest new incentives to keep more workers in the city they serve.
“I think it’s important that people who are serving our citizens live in the city so they can see how good the quality of service is they’re providing,” Council Member Lee Kleinman said.
The latest City of Dallas employee census completed in January shows 62.9% of all workers do not live in Dallas with the number for civilians at 51.7% and uniform police and firefighters 81.7%. Figures for the last three years show a similar rate of Dallas employees living in other cities.
The rising cost of living in good Dallas neighborhoods is the main reason so many Dallas Police and Firefighters live elsewhere according to union leaders.
Since firefighters work for the city just one day out of three, commuting a longer distance is not as great a concern for them according to Dallas Firefighters Association President Jim McDade. He said starting pay of around $51,000 makes better Dallas neighborhoods unaffordable for public safety workers.
“You can move out to the suburbs and find a better quality of life that people are more satisfied with and have better quality schools,” said McDade. “The neighborhoods that have the amenities that the suburbs have, those are just way too expensive and out of our price range.”
Dallas Police Association President Mike Mata has lived in the Dallas Lake Highlands area for the past 14 years but said he can’t afford to buy the house his family needs now in that neighborhood.
“I’m moving to McKinney,” Mata said. “I got way more bang for my buck. I got a huge yard which I didn’t have before. There’s great schools up in McKinney and Prosper. So I just have to bite the bullet, drive a little longer, but it’s what’s best for my family.”
Dallas City Councilman Kevin Felder said he has been talking with the police chief about ways to encourage new recruits to live inside the city.
“It’s a win, win situation. You get an affordable house in a nice neighborhood. We provide incentives in order for you to be able to move into that neighborhood,” Felder said. “If you have a police officer in the neighborhood is going to be safer.”
Police already offer a small Dallas home buying incentive to officers. Kleinman suggests adding more.
“The easiest incentive we can do is give them a tax break for buying a home in the City of Dallas,” Kleinman said.
Both public safety union leaders support new incentives.
“Any sort of property break, that would be great, and it would be an incentive. You would have to start taking that into consideration,” said McDade.
Both Council Members said they will be supporting the changes at City Hall.