DHA has a plan to work with developers to increase affordable housing

Experts, social service providers and city officials agree: A big key to turning the tide on generational poverty in Dallas is access to more affordable housing for the thousands of residents who need it. The city of Dallas’ comprehensive housing plan says the city needs 20,000 additional affordable housing units. The Dallas Housing Authority in many ways is the linchpin for success.

Troy Broussard, chief executive of DHA, has a strategic plan to enlist the help of private developers to redevelop DHA properties and other solutions to fill in the gaps that the agency knows it can’t fill by itself.

A dozen real estate companies have been chosen to work on redevelopment of seven aging DHA properties — mostly in southern and central Dallas — that total 146 acres and now have 650 housing units. But Broussard believes its five-year strategy is a progressive new direction that goes beyond the 3,900 public housing units that are currently part of its housing program. Public-private partnerships are the key to much-needed affordable housing long term.

How can Dallas increase its affordable housing?

A lot has been covered as it relates to the seven properties that we have ownership interest in. Part of that is redevelopment of those specific asset holdings that we have control over and those seven that we’ve identified as part of our strategy of units that we have. But the other piece of that that hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage so far is that those private developers are in the marketplace every day developing assets, and so we are also working with them on real estate holdings that they have interest in, in establishing public-private partnerships to develop assets that are beyond what we control.

That’s a critical component of penetrating markets that have higher opportunity communities for our families to access and gain unit shares in. Our strategy is to triple not just those seven assets, which will be critically important, but also in addition to that, the other story is we’re partnering with the private sector to gain access to units and markets that we currently don’t have and have no intention or capability of developing on our own. We really think this is a change, a really progressive strategy.

What’s the advantage to a developer to partner with DHA?

From the development side of the table, if DHA’s involved with a public-private partnership, there are certain privileges that the housing authority has as it relates to ad valorem tax exemption status, and so we’re part of a development mix in terms of acquisition, new construction or rehab.

Our model has been that the DHA, through a single asset entity, can come into that partnership structure, take ownership of a third and then bring that property tax exempt status. So for developers that’s attractive because it’s a direct benefit to their bottom line and the financing of the project and the continued long-term sustainability of it.

For us, it’s a benefit because our families are getting access to units in the market space where we gain capacity. In North Texas there were 700,000 units in the multifamily space. We can’t build enough units on our own, so we see these types of partnerships, whether they be through the public-private development side, and then also equally important is just the housing choice voucher side, where we’re working with property owners and management companies to be a better business partner as it relates to basing some units in the private market space.

We all agree the city just needs more affordable housing. Talk to me about these properties that DHA owns and holds. What’s the vision for those?

The best strategy for those communities as well as for our residents is for those to be mixed-income properties. The two that we currently have are Cliff Manor and Brooks Manor, and those would be a little bit different because they’re geared toward the elderly.

What we found in some of our redevelopment efforts so far, that has been I think really progressive and on the cutting edge in terms of affordability and the quality of stock, is our campus here in West Dallas, where we have our Lakewood Senior facility. It is the complete continuum of care where we have independent living for our seniors all the way to skilled nursing and assisted living, all of that in an affordable housing model which allows our families to age in place.

They could live there through a project base and then as they age and need more skilled nursing facilities, then they’re able to transition still using that affordability component. Stonegate was the developer we worked with there. For Brooks and for Cliff I see something similar.

There are certain number of units that are market driven and certain number of units that are for low- income residents. The DHA-owned properties are in some pretty hot areas — Uptown in particular. How do you ensure that the balance stays where it needs to stay?

I would say every day we walk into this office and turn the lights on, our mission is about providing affordable housing solutions, so we aren’t going to sell our family short in the need of affordable housing in any redevelopment. It’s all about creating affordable housing units for us; anything short of that isn’t a part of our mission, and we wouldn’t be engaged in it.

On top of that, we also have our federal sponsoring agency, the U.S. Department of Housing, and these assets are owned by the federal government. So any redevelopment strategy, we’ll have to get approval through to them. And if they feel that the number of affordable housing units that we proposed isn’t consistent with the mission, they can deny any plan of redevelopment that we have, and we would need to modify it.

The city of Dallas just came out with this comprehensive plan. We’re fuzzy on how there’s a comprehensive housing plan for affordable housing for the city, and DHA is separate from that. How have you interacted with the city so far, and how do you see that happening down the line?

The city has done a great thing by establishing a foundation, and we all know the playing field in terms of how its resources and its allocation will be as it relates to affordable housing. Now we’re into the actual logistics of implementation. We haven’t defined the specificity of how we will interact.

We’re still in the early stages of conversations about how do we leverage the resources, and I would say that conversation shouldn’t just be limited to the city, we’ve got to have DART at the table. We’ve got to have DISD at the table. We will all collectively have to come together to provide a much more comprehensive approach to the redevelopment strategies of neighborhoods.

And it’s not just housing, it’s if you’re talking South Dallas, you’re talking about job opportunities, you’re talking about retail, you’re talking about a whole lot of things.

How are you feeling about the relationship with the city? Are you optimistic that you guys will now come together?

I’m very optimistic. I think, T.C. (City Manager T.C. Broadnax) is bringing on a lot of new leadership, kind of this new synergy of working better together. We’ve had some very good discussions about our roles as city manager and mine as the executive director of the housing agency and how we can think through, how can we better leverage our combined resources.

It’s important for us to take a different position as an organization to improve who we are and how we do business so that as we seek these partnerships, that the community business partners and other organizations see us as an asset and a resource, and that we’re working together collaboratively.

We got a very important mission, and I’m not naive to think we can handle it on our own. We’ve got to align ourselves with organizations, and so we’re being intentional about improving our business processes. We’ve got some areas we’ve got to shore up, and I think we’re working toward that, but as we do that we’ve got to announce to the community: “Here’s who we are as an organization. Here’s how we are improving. Give us a chance to be a part of the solution strategy.”

This Q&A was conducted, edited and condensed by Dallas Morning News editorial board member Leona Allen. Visit the Dallas Morning News website to view the original article.


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