DHA’s Move Toward Private Partnerships is Good for Affordable Housing in Dallas

We’ve long argued that to make a dent in the generational poverty that grips large swaths of our community, Dallas has to develop stronger partnerships with private developers to provide more much-needed affordable housing.

For far too many of our citizens — even some with full-time jobs — housing is too expensive in our city and there simply aren’t enough of the places that are affordable to go around.

That’s why we’re encouraged to learn that the Dallas Housing Authority has made another positive step in its plan to engage private developers to help fill some of the gaps.

It has selected a dozen real estate companies who have an opportunity to help redevelop DHA’s aging properties in southern and central Dallas. Seven properties, three of them now vacant, will be reimagined with both market and subsidized rental housing.

DHA President and CEO Troy Broussard told us that Dallas Housing Authority has realized it can’t build enough affordable units on its own to come close to meeting the demand. It’s going to take collaboration with private developers to create opportunities for more mixed-income neighborhoods with affordable and market-rate units. DHA plans to parlay funds generated by redevelopment to build more affordable housing.

It’s a sound strategy that acknowledges that economic mobility is tied to progressive housing policies. In other words, low-income residents in high-poverty neighborhoods must have opportunities for access to better housing and jobs, and their children to better schools than they have now.

Still, it was good to hear Broussard say that DHA won’t lose sight of its primary mission: to provide more, not shrink the supply of affordable housing.

It’s important that the housing agency will ensure that there will be a good percentage of affordable units in the properties private developers will develop in such prime areas as Dallas’ Uptown and Oak Lawn neighborhoods. Otherwise, the units in those neighborhoods command high-market rents.

We’ve seen the damage caused when low-income residents are forced out of gentrifying neighborhoods. Adhering to federal HUD guidelines should help guard against any plans getting out of balance. And current residents in the 650 units that are part of this effort will have a chance to help define what the new developments look like, Broussard said.

First up for redevelopment in the five-year plan will be the vacant 7 acres of Brooks Manor and Cliff Manor, which currently has 180 units. Both Oak Cliff properties are designated for senior citizens and disabled residents. DHA sees potential in them for independent and assisted living with support services like the current Stonegate and Fairfield properties.

Also on the list is Little Mexico Village community on Harry Hines Boulevard in Uptown and the Cedar Springs Place apartments between Maple Avenue and Cedar Springs Road in Oak Lawn. Both are family developments that date back more than 75 years.

And as we see it, it will also be critical for Dallas Housing Authority to embrace and work closely with the city of Dallas and its new comprehensive housing plan. Though the entities have a shared goal of increasing affordable housing, we’ve been disappointed that so far the work of DHA has not been more aligned with the city of Dallas’ efforts for a fresh start on housing policies.

It makes sense for DHA and the city to join forces and work more closely together.

Broussard says the plan is still in the early stages and meetings will happen soon with City Manager T.C. Broadnax and other city officials, as well as with other critical organizations such as DART and Dallas ISD. He sees the comprehensive housing plan as a good foundation and now the work begins to maximize the return on investments and to discuss resource allocation.

As we’ve said before, there’s a lot we like in the city’s long-needed plan. It recognizes that Dallas has 20,000 fewer homes than it needs, a gap that has widened as the number of new units has not kept up with the city’s population growth.

The plan creates criteria for three types of investment areas that will be used to determine how to invest housing dollars. It will create a mix of rental and owner-occupied units, about half developed for residents whose incomes are below the city’s midpoint.

It also recognizes that historic housing policies have left Dallas segregated by class and race. That’s key if we are to break the cycle of poverty in this city.

Mayor Mike Rawlings and the city of Dallas understood that when they unveiled a new independent nonprofit, Child Poverty Action Lab to help create tangible, effective programs to combat poverty in this city.

More affordable housing is a major part of the solution.

We applaud these first steps by DHA and the city of Dallas that provide new ways of tackling this complex problem in our community. Getting this right — and improving the lives of our neighbors and the kind of city we want to live in — should matter to all of us.

 

Read the original news story from The Dallas Morning News.

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