Complaints About New Dallas Housing Policy

City Council vote scheduled next week

Dallas urgently needs 20,000 new affordable housing units. For the first time Wednesday, a new policy intended to entice developers to build those units was presented to the full Dallas City Council after more than a year of work by a committee and city staff.

Critics have two main complaints. They said the policy excludes too many neighborhoods and includes too few low income people in reduced rent units.

Tenant Arlandra Smith, a disabled grandmother, went to City Hall to support more units like the one she has in the Dallas Cedars neighborhood south of Downtown.

“I worked all my life. I need the system to work for me. I paid into the system, you know,” she said.

The Cedars is one of the target areas in the new housing policy. A Market Value Analysis was used to select target areas adjacent to areas where values are already stable or on the rise.

The thinking is that new city incentives in those areas are more likely to attract more private investment in the future instead of previous city practice that might put city housing incentives in the lowest market value areas.

“Today is really about trying to change the dynamic of how we invest to maximize our investment and to encourage and entice future development,” Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said.

Fiji Senior Villas on 11th Street off Corinth Street is an existing project that would not receive city support under the new policy. The ten year old complex with reduced rent for lower income seniors still has an extremely low value neighborhood all around it, but that area is not a target in the new policy and would not receive new housing construction incentives in the near future.

“It’s very much an island here,” said tenant Susan Vargas.

The tenant who has lived in other parts of Dallas said excluding the area around Fiji now would be a mistake.

“I think it spoils it because it’s a stop. I think they’ve got to maintain what they’re doing,” Vargas said.

The area is represented by Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway, whose district has no target areas in the proposed housing policy after many years of prior housing incentives.

“I have every single problem going on in my area,” Caraway said. “If we to do nothing, then we only going to increase crime. We only going to increase poverty.”

Broadnax said home repair programs and other city services would still be provided in Caraway’s district, even if new housing construction incentives are not.

“The idea that we’re going to forsake and not do any work in the southern district, I think is wrong and a fallacy and a mischaracterization of everything this policy stands for,” Broadnax said.

Councilman Tennell Atkins leads the committee that has been working on the new policy. He said it can always be amended and target areas will change in the future.

“If we do not come up with a housing policy, we are going to have a hold back on project money, zoning and investment,” Atkins said.

A City Council vote is scheduled next Wednesday.

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