After years of work on how to combat the surge in Dallas housing costs and departure of middle class families for the suburbs, the Dallas City Council Wednesday approved seven new Neighborhood Empowerment Zones.
“I think this is critically important for us to make Dallas the type of Dallas we can all be proud of,” Councilman Casey Thomas said.
The zones come with new money and programs.
Builders get incentives to construct new affordable housing to attract new middle class homeowners. Existing owners get tax breaks and repair assistance to keep them from leaving older homes.
One of the zones is around Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Fair Park, where homeowner Stephanie Cole said she was pleased to hear about the plan.
“I’m excited about it,” she said. “When you first made the statement about it, I thought, 'Thank the Lord.'”
On one side of her home is a new one that cost buyers about three times more than she paid for her home 21 years ago. On the other is a weathered property with severe structural problems. There are many vacant lots on her street.
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“I’d be happy to see something other than vacant lots here. I believe this neighborhood is up and coming because we’re too close to downtown Dallas not to be an up and coming neighborhood,” Cole said.
It will cost the city of Dallas more than $2 million for the builder incentives, repair assistance and lost revenue from tax abatements.
“For every dollar we invest in this programs, we’re looking at a $10 return from private investment, which is key,” said Councilman Chad West, who chairs the city council's housing committee that refined the plans.
West said Dallas gets only a small fraction of the region’s construction by builder of new homes starting at under $300,000.
“We want you here,” West said. “We want these homes and we’re going to put the policies in place to make it easier to build these homes in Dallas.”
The plan comes with special tax abatements directed toward police officers, firefighters, teachers and healthcare workers.
“We’ve been pushing them out of our neighborhoods from rising home prices and it’s time to start bringing them back into our neighborhoods,” West said.
Councilman Tennell Atkins said residents have not received enough information about the new programs.
“The people need to know what we’re doing and how they can apply for it,” Atkins said.
City officials said they would provide application information to city council offices in the coming days.