Dallas housing equity target areas revealed to promote affordable housing

This is the first "pillar" in a housing policy the Dallas City Council approved in April

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After years of talk about boosting Southern Dallas and in a city where it is getting very hard for average workers to afford homes, Dallas officials Monday unveiled three equity housing policy target areas.

The three target zones to receive intense support from multiple city departments to promote affordable housing are all in Southern Dallas.

But some members of the Dallas City Council Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee Monday worried about other needy neighborhoods that would receive less housing support. Other members said the housing plan has been moving too slowly.

Dallas Fair Park and the communities around it are the first target area.

A fence that kept neighbors out of Fair Park parking lots will give way as a big new park is constructed on one of those lots to welcome neighbors back in.

The area has high poverty but also has new home construction with prices lower than other parts of Dallas.

Area two is Central East Oak Cliff, including Cadillac Heights, where the city plans another big park expansion. This area has new townhome construction and a new apartment complex is going up nearby.

Area three includes portions of South Lancaster Road and the intersection of Simpson Stuart Road at Bonnie View Road. Several murders around that corner over the past year had neighbors calling for more police presence but a new apartment complex has also gone up near that corner where the city has supported reopening a grocery store.

Area three also includes portions of the Dallas Inland Port, where an intermodal rail terminal supports warehouses and jobs.

The target areas were influenced by the Equity policy the city council approved in 2022 to help reverse past inequity in city funding for Black and Brown communities.

“Southern Dallas has been neglected for years and it’s hard to quantify, having lived there,” Dallas City Councilman Zarin Gracey said.

Gracey represents a portion of area three.  He supported the extra city attention to reverse past inattention to these areas.

North Oak Cliff Councilman Chad West, a top advocate for affordable housing, questioned the location decisions.

“The one thing I was surprised to see is that there wasn’t a single neighborhood in the North that was selected as one of the three priority areas where we hear, over and over again, we need affordability,” West said.

City officials said they used data from a consultant to help define the areas that would benefit most from the intense focus on resources to promote affordable housing.

There was debate about whether those areas should be the sole focus.

“This is what we’ve seen today that we need to target. And we would like your feedback on whether or not we need to just pull the rug out from under things and just completely focus on these areas. But we didn’t want to do that without a conversation with you because that is difficult for all these other council districts that will not receive our funding sources,” Interim Dallas Housing Director Cynthia Rogers-Ellickson said.

Committee members said the target areas should not receive all of the city’s housing attention.

“There’s no council district that doesn’t have some areas of significant poverty that need help,” North Dallas Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said. “I think 100% is not possible but why would we do all this work and not make significant movement? So, I would like to see it be a large number and to see transformation.”

Councilman Jesse Moreno said he wants to maintain some protection for owners being forced out of existing affordable homes by big new ones going up right beside them, causing rising taxes and gentrification.

“Making sure that we're not having that displacement and developing more on parcels of land that don't have housing,” Moreno said.

North Dallas Council Member Gay Donnell Willis said there could be more than 3 target areas.

“The areas that have been identified are absolutely where our focus should be, however, without having options 4 and 5 to consider, I don’t know that we have all we need to be able to evaluate this,” Willis said.

Housing officials said attention will be saved for existing programs and other areas of the city.

And they said the housing plan will make faster progress.

Defining target areas was just the first of seven “pillars” in the housing plan approved in April.

“At this rate, if we don’t accelerate this, it’s going to take years to roll this out,” Councilman Chad West said.

West said the city's new economic development policy seemed to move faster.

The Housing Department is also taking applications for a Housing Task Force that would serve as an advisory panel on implementing strategies.

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