Giant $400 Million Dallas Plan to Boost Affordable Housing

Largest ever $150 million slice of bond money also suggested to spur affordable housing

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To combat the soaring cost of owning or renting a home in Dallas, the City Council Housing Committee Monday heard a plan to spend as much as $400 million public dollars to attract and build affordable housing. 

A 2024 public improvement bond referendum could include $150 million for housing. That’s far more affordable housing support than any past Dallas bond referendum.

The goal is 100,000 units over 10 years.

The Bottom neighborhood near the Trinity River is an example of how bond money has supported affordable housing in the past.

The 2017 referendum provided $827,000 of the $4.285 million of city support for The Bottom Phase II.

New homes now line both sides of Denley Drive. Chasity Colomb is closing on one of them Friday. It is the first home she has owned after years of renting.

“Before I found out about this opportunity, I was beginning to think I was going to get priced out of the city that I was raised in,” she said.

Across the street, Mekeyas Newaye’s was the first new family on the block two years ago.

“It's really hard to build a community unless there are some of the things like sidewalks and street lights and roads that are drivable,” he said.

Part of the affordable home formula is that lots are very inexpensive in The Bottom. The neighborhood is transitioning from old and worn out.

Streets around the corner from Denley are being torn out now to expand the number of desirable building sites.

Public money for affordable housing is not necessarily actually dwelling construction. More likely the public contribution is new sidewalks, streets, street lights, sewer and water lines that make the inexpensive lots attractive for new home builders.

The Housing Committee Chairman, outgoing Councilman Casey Thomas, who will soon be leaving city hall because of term limits, has been pushing for greater city affordable housing investment in his eight years representing Southeast Dallas District 3.

“I would say you know, let's go big,” he said. “There’s a lot of support amongst residents, amongst community leaders, amongst faith-based leaders even amongst industry, for this type of investment.”

Affordable housing is also considered workforce housing for families with limited income. Monday’s briefing said it takes an income of around $130,000 a year to afford the DFW median $373,000 home. The median DFW income is $97,400.

Dallas housing construction has not kept up with demand, one factor for soaring prices.

The suggested $150 million in 2024 bond money could be followed by $150 million or more in a possible 2029 referendum.

“I think it’s going to be up to the next council to have the courage to say let’s go big, and then let’s go big again. I think the residents of the City of Dallas will follow,” Thomas said.

A 2006 bond referendum included $6.5 million that supported a Bexar Street redevelopment project in South Dallas that added 13 townhomes.

A 2012 referendum contributed $2 million toward $8.3 million in public money for the 300-unit Palladium Red Bird apartment complex, with 70% of the units reserved for tenants with limited income.

The past three bond referendums developed 957 units, far fewer than city leaders say Dallas needs.

“We're going to need voters to support a big bond if we really want to move this needle but we're going to have to give them a plan that shows timelines because they're our investors. They're not going to give us the money unless we give them a reason to,” Council Member Paula Blackmon said.

Other members had concerns about the big-money housing plan.

Councilman Jesse Moreno said he had hesitation about the amount.

“I want to be sure that we are able to deliver and that we are able to utilize those dollars,” Moreno said.

The suggested bond money sum for housing would be the most ever by far in a Dallas bond referendum and housing is not the only Dallas need that will compete for a share of the 2024 bond referendum.

“Not that it's not an important thing, but so are all of our other priorities. So I just think we need more consideration of that,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn said. “There’s more than one way to spur development. It’s not just debt.”

Resident Mekeyas Newaye says the bond investment has been successful in The Bottom.

“When you think about return on things like cement and streets, to some it may seem insignificant, but it truly is an investment that can last decades,” he said.

His future neighbor Chasity Colomb said she hopes more families get to enjoy affordable homes.

“This has just been a blessing for me and my family,” she said.

Many public meetings will be held over the next year before details of a 2024 borrowing plan are finalized.

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