Tenants Fearing Gentrification Displacement Get Dallas City Hall Attention

Neighborhood councilman says no renovation evictions have been scheduled at the complex in question

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A group of tenants and affordable housing advocates supporting them went to Dallas City Hall this week over fears of being displaced by renovation of their rental homes.

Some of the residents from the property at 515 North Marsalis said their homes have rat and roach problems but their fear of displacement is the biggest issue.

After hearing from the group, Mayor Eric Johnson and several city council members asked city staff members to meet with the tenants over their concerns.

The tenants said rent at the Marsalis property is about $700 a month.

“After paying my rent, I don’t have that much money, like for food,” tenant Lena Wright-Turner said. “I don’t make that much money to afford something like a thousand and something dollars for an apartment.”

The management company for the Marsalis complex is named as the representative at many other places around the neighborhood that have already been renovated.

Representatives of the group “Fighting Homelessness” said they have spoken with people from the management company and were shown fliers that roughly double the rent at the Marsalis property.

Fighting Homelessness founder Lisa Marshall said the managers refuse to accept rent-subsidized tenants or set aside affordable units in the renovated complexes.

“When you say that they just look at you and say, ‘No, we're not going there,” Marshall said.

Renovation and replacement of older housing is happening in many Dallas neighborhoods. Higher rent is a result that some existing residents can’t afford.

“Tenement housing is being purchased, revitalized and forcing people into homelessness,” Marshall said.

Two whole blocks of 8th Street are fenced where affordable housing is soon to be replaced. Large new apartment buildings have gone up nearby.

Dallas City Council Member Chad West represents those North Oak Cliff neighborhoods.

“Displacement is a real issue in the whole city and there’s limited tools to address it,” West said.

A $70 million plan was unveiled last year to provide more housing for homeless people but that does not help people who are on the brink of becoming homeless.

A development corporation has been created by the city to help build new affordable housing.

“The model is we need to build more affordable housing in the city and we need to enable the production as much as we can.” West said.

But West also said he spoke with the actual property owner of the 515 North Marsalis. West said the owner assured him that no tenants are being evicted at this time because of renovation and it would be at least six to nine months before any renovation plan is in place.

West said city officials were already aware of and addressing some resident concerns about the Marsalis property before their appearance at the city council meeting.

Officials are taking a closer look at possible code violations, fair housing compliance and other issues at the property now.

Officials met with Fighting Homelessness leaders after the city council appearance.

“They didn’t promise anybody anything, but they said this is something that is happening that should not be happening,” Marshall said.

An NBC 5 voice mail message seeking comment from the management company was not returned Thursday.

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