Dallas city leaders Monday insisted on faster code enforcement for private property owners at the same time as new plans arrived for a city owned nuisance that’s festered for six years.
After a 2009 non-profit partnership failed, the city became the owner of the Oak Glen Apartments on 52nd Street at South Lancaster Road in 2012.
Since then, fire further damaged the unfit 64-unit complex, which sits between The Thrash Memorial Funeral Home on Lancaster Road and a neighborhood of single family homes.
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“Right now, the building in the condition that it’s in is an eyesore,” said funeral home CEO Bobby Thrash. “It hurts the community. It hurts the neighborhood. I think most people as far as businesses in here want it gone.”
Monday the Dallas City Council Housing Committee heard a new plan to renovate the complex for homeless veterans' housing a block from the Dallas Veterans Administration Medical Center.
This time an organization called Heroes House would be the city’s partner.
The committee sent the plan on for a full City Council vote on April 22 under new pressure from the federal government, which invested $859,231 in the project so far.
City housing officials said at the meeting that the city received a letter from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on March 26, ordering a cohesive plan for completing the project or refunding the federal money within 30 days.
“This is a betrayal of the trust that I gave you guys,” Councilman Scott Griggs told the city officials. “I’m not happy to hear there’s a HUD letter with a gun to our heads requiring action. I’m not happy about this.”
Griggs said city housing officials had promised in the past to quickly reveal important communication with the federal government.
At the very same meeting, the same committee also instructed city staff to develop more aggressive code enforcement laws for private property owners.
City officials said 60 percent of Dallas residents live in rental homes and better code enforcement is needed.
“We talk about quality of life,” Councilman Rick Callahan said. “We need people to move back in, the middle class. But the middle class is not going to move back into this malaise. Not unless we get a handle on these quality of live issues. We bring a sense of order -- a sense of decorum -- back, then we’re going to have the kind of city we want. It’s going to be ‘Big D’ and we’ll be proud of it.”
Callahan and Councilman Dwaine Caraway each rattled off a list of code enforcement problems in their districts for which they want tougher city enforcement.
“We need to have some type of a process in place to deal with folks who are not willing to bring up the standards of those apartment complexes,” Caraway said. “There needs to be a stronger enforcement to those that are in noncompliance.”
Asked after the meeting about the irony of the city’s position, Committee Vice Chairman Griggs said the city should lead by example.
“We want to improve code enforcement, which is requiring others to meet a certain standard in a dwelling, so we need to work on that, and we need to work on the ones that we own, also,” he said.
Bobby Thrash, a former U.S. Marine, said he hopes the plan to help veterans at the city owned complex works out, but he is concerned about trying to renovate the dilapidated structure.
“I’m all for it, but I want it to be done the right way. I don’t want it to be haphazard. I don’t want it to be a detriment to veterans,” he said.