State Lawmaker Fights Back Against West Dallas Gentrification

A state representative says he won't let West Dallas residents be pushed out for the sake of economic development.

State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) has introduced a bill that, if passed, would lower the property burden on homeowners who have lived in the area for decades.

He says he simply wants to ensure they are not forced to sell their homes and relocate just because the area is now desirable to businesses and developers.

In the 38 years that Maria Lopez has lived in Trinity Groves, she has seen houses being bought up only to be torn down for development.

"Back when I moved in, it was gravel," she said of the area near Singleton Boulevard and Gulden Lane. "These houses right here, they were old, old, old."

Her sister's house across the street is now a gravel parking lot for those wanting to visit area shops or the Ron Kirk or Margaret Hunt Hill bridges.

Now, a week doesn't go by without a visit by a real estate agent at her modest house.

"They call me, they leave me notes in the mailbox, in my fence," she said.

While she's not quite ready to sell yet, she worries about those she feels have been pushed out because of rising property taxes.

"I think that's wrong because what are the people supposed to do," said Lopez.

Johnson has filed House Bill 2480 in an effort to prevent West Dallas residents from gentrification.

"We want to make sure the folks who've lived there and lived there for decades aren't displaced involuntarily," said Johnson, a West Dallas native.

"It's an area where people for a long time have had to make lemonade out of lemons, and I just think it's fundamentally unfair that now that we've built a bridge from downtown to these folks' neighborhoods, and some people have discovered that there's a pretty view of downtown from where these folks live, and now [they say] 'We'll pay attention, we'll invest in the infrastructure and we'll move in' – wealthier residents who don't look like the residents – and, 'We need you all to leave,'" said Johnson.

If the bill is passed, long-time residents would have their properties taxes reduced.

It would also allow local appraisal districts to not to take into account any new developments, when assessing values of older properties.

The city of Dallas would collect 20 percent of monies from the Tax Increment Financing District in West Dallas and use that money to help pay for the tax abatement program, according to Johnson.

The Democrat knows it's an uphill battle.

"Your choices are do nothing and have zero chance of saving these people's homes or try something and have a small chance," he said.

Lopez says she's been offered 10-times what her house is worth by real estate agents.

"Be honest I'm waiting for the right price," she said.

With many tempting offers, she must now decide how much her house on the corner is really worth.

"At night when lights are on and, oh, it's beautiful," she said of her view of the Dallas skyline.

Johnson wants to get this bill passed this legislative session, but it has yet to go to committee for a hearing.

If passed, the new law would go into effect in September.

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