First Ever Dallas Housing Policy Faces Opposition

City Council Approval Planned Next Month

Dallas has never had a housing policy for developers and non-profits seeking city support for their projects, according to City Council Members.

After years of discussion, the new housing policy heading for approval by the City Council next month is attracting opposition from people who have been building affordable housing in Dallas for years.

Sherman Roberts is President of City Wide Community Development Corporation, a non-profit focused on the South Lancaster Road area of Dallas.

“I’m doing the things that I thought you say that you want. And now we’re going to change again. And we’re going to do studies for the next 3 years,” Roberts said. "We’ve got tons and tons of studies that we have done and they all say the same thing."

The proposed new policy uses circles to designate reinvestment areas where the city wants housing development to occur. Roberts’ area is outside the circles.

City Council Member Scott Griggs said the new policy is intended to make better use of limited city resources by directing private and non-profit projects to areas where they are most likely to succeed and hopefully attract more private investment in the future without city support.

“We’re going to pick particular areas to emphasize and prioritize for redevelopment. These areas are going to be adjacent to areas that have already seen large investment of private capital,” Griggs said.

In the new housing policy map, Red circles are Redevelopment Areas where projects are already slated to occur within a year. Green circles are Stabilization Areas with strong potential but also immediate risk of decline. Blue Emerging Market Areas require intense code and crime enforcement and other city services to support current planned improvements.

All of the background colors on the map are based on a Market Value Analysis of real estate in Dallas. City officials believe the MVA provides metrics on which to justify the housing policy.

“This is more community driven. We’re picking communities and areas of town to prioritize for investment. The old way of doing things is essentially the Bank of Dallas,” Griggs said.

In the old practice without a clear policy, Griggs said private and non-profit groups would approach the city for investments in a project based on how much money they were lacking from other sources to accomplish the goal. City staff would evaluate projects and City Council would approve them on more subjective standards.

“It’s going to be constantly updated. And we’ll do big strategic changes at 18 months and 3 years to see how the market is changing,” Griggs said.

Roberts said the new approach with studies required for areas outside the circles may reduce progress that was already underway in other areas that need more help, too.

City Wide CDC has built two large mixed use developments in the South Lancaster Road corridor that has been a Dallas Target neighborhood in the recent past. The projects have access to the adjacent DART rail line, near the Dallas Veterans Administration Medical Center. Roberts' agency has vacant land ready for another mixed use development on Lancaster and a single family home subdivision in the neighborhood.

“We’re talking about major projects,” Roberts said. “We need a lot of infrastructure here so why not keep doing that and not say we’re going to study because we’ll be falling behind as we do that.”

Griggs said Community Development Corporations will not be cut out of the new policy.

“The product he does, he can move over to one of these circles and he’s still welcome to do business here in the City of Dallas,” Griggs said. “We have such limited resources. We cannot put our resources in every single block of the city of Dallas.”

The Dallas City Council Economic Development and Housing Committee held a special meeting on the new policy Thursday to hear comments from the public and from Community Development Housing Organizations.

Roberts spoke for CDHO’s along with Diane Ragsdale, a former City Council Member who now leads Innercity Community Development Corporation. Her CDHO is focused on areas near Dallas Fair Park that are also outside the new housing policy circles.

“People should not have to move to upper class neighborhoods to enjoy a decent standard of living,” Ragsdale said. “There is responsibility to the neighborhoods where you have a concentration of poor people.”

Committee members said the housing policy will not remove basic city services to all parts of Dallas but it will direct the use of additional resources that developers have been able to access in the past.

“We need a policy that’s going to be good for all of Dallas,” Committee Chairman Tennell Atkins said.

Atkins said he hopes to have the full City Council approve the new housing policy in May, but future amendments may be added for technical details that are not yet completed.

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