Racial and Economic Segregation in Dallas is Getting Worse
In 2015, the Obama administration announced a federal rule, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, requiring communities to address patterns of segregation. As a result, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development established a process called an Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH), requiring federal grantees to identify, evaluate and address fair housing issues.
In 2016, municipalities and public housing entities nationwide began their efforts. For the North Texas Regional Housing Assessment, seven cities and 15 public housing agencies agreed to develop a regional study, establishing the largest AFH group in the country. The University of Texas at Arlington conducted the study, and I was the lead researcher.
In January 2018, the Trump administration announced it would delay enforcement of AFH requirements until 2020, pausing many AFH efforts. Despite this shift in the regulatory environment, the North Texas Regional Assessment was completed.
What the AFH study found in Dallas is that racial and economic segregation is growing, and racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty persist.
One of the tools HUD created to help lower-income families secure affordable housing is the Housing Choice Voucher program. The AFH shows us that Dallas voucher families tend to live in the most segregated areas. Furthermore, landlords who refuse to accept vouchers are concentrated in North Dallas, where there is a greater white population that has a higher socio-economic status.
Despite federal Fair Housing regulations, Texas state law explicitly permits landlords to deny housing to voucher families who can pay the rent, satisfy the tenant selection criteria, and for whom there are no legitimate business reasons not to accept as tenants.
Affordability of basic needs such as transportation were also considered. I conducted a transportation equity analysis, which documents the cumulative barriers faced by low-income families. The study shows that 75 percent of voucher families cannot afford a car and 54 percent cannot afford a monthly regional transit pass for the adults in their household, which costs $160 per pass. A majority of voucher families in Dallas do not have sufficient resources to meet basic transportation needs.
The duty to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing extends to all programs relating to housing and urban development, including economic development, housing, transportation, and so forth. As such, the AFH examined the extent to which the city of Dallas’ Comprehensive Housing Policy impacts persistent segregation challenges.
The policy that the city adopted this past May identifies focus areas to “overcome the concentration of poverty and segregation.” Yet, the AFH study shows that the areas targeted for city investment leave behind a majority of neighborhoods that are designated as “racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty.” Now that we have this data, can the city’s housing policy adapt to ensure low-income families don’t get left behind?
While the AFH study reflects an unflattering image of segregation in Dallas, we are proud that the city had the courage to initiate the research and is learning from it. The City Council discussed the study this week and expressed commitment to find bold ways to tackle these complex issues.
The adage that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking applies. Though we are no longer required to complete AFH studies, those who have already performed the work should use it.
Some of the key recommendations from the North Texas AFH to address these segregation issues include: challenging the Texas law prohibiting municipal source of income protection ordinances; proactively locking in affordable housing in gentrifying areas; and developing strategies to retain expiring Low-Income Housing Tax Credit projects as affordable housing.
We hope other cities have the same courage as Dallas. This great city is leading the way forward for all of North Texas, and the nation. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and turn the data into sustained action.
Dr. Myriam Igoufe is a University of Texas at Arlington researcher in urban planning and DHA’s Director of Housing Services. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.