Efforts to Build Affordable Workforce Housing in Dallas

Soaring rent and property values make homes near jobs out of reach for some Dallas workers

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Rent and property values are soaring in Dallas. But many efforts are underway to help Dallas workers stay in the city.

A groundbreaking was held Tuesday for one of those projects in the heart of North Oak Cliff at the site of Dallas County’s old Beckley Avenue branch courthouse.

It’s very close to the luxury apartments going up in the Bishop Arts area where many people who work in the acre can’t afford the rent.

Dallas City Council Member Chad West represents the area.

“We are pushing more and more people out of the city because we don't have enough housing for them. So, we're displacing them. They're moving into the suburbs,” West said.

Dallas County Commissioners could have sold the courthouse site to a developer that would likey have built more of the same expensive apartments.

“It just didn't feel like we needed more high-end apartments with affordable components that are not really affordable for working-class people,” said County Commissioner Elba Garcia, who also represents North Oak Cliff.

Instead, the county will long-term lease the land at no cost to a non-profit developer for 230 new units, most of them reserved for families of 4 making no more than $50,000 a year.

“This is one of the projects that we hope can close down that gentrification,” Garcia said.

A key part of making the rent affordable in a popular area is the government providing the land.

And that is also happening now at many other locations through the efforts of the City of Dallas.

Another groundbreaking was held on October 25 on South Lancaster Road for affordable housing on city property near the Ledbetter DART rail station.

Similar projects have been approved at another South Lancaster Road location near the VA Medical Center and on Al Lipscomb Way near the Martin Luther King DART station.

DART is offering five more sites on mostly empty parking lots adjacent to rail stations.  The Dallas City Council votes Wednesday on a plan to market those DART sites to developers.

“The city is a minimum 20,000 short in affordable units. That's units for our workforce. That's people who are delivering our mail. That's entry-level teachers,” West said.

Attractive financing is another component to fuel affordable housing development.

A Dallas City Council Committee Tuesday heard about plans to form an Opportunity Trust Fund with $6 million in seed money from the city. The goal is to raise up to $100 million more for extremely low-cost loans to support affordable housing developers.

“This is innovative. It is something we have not done before,” Councilman Casey Thomas said.

Linda McMahon with the Texas Real Estate Council which represents apartment builders said there is no match for the trust fund program in Dallas now.

“It’s a game-changer I think for the City of Dallas,” she said.

Workers will have to be patient to see the benefits of these efforts. It will take years to build all the affordable units that are being planned.

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