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Commercial Real Estate

CRE Opinion: Solving Affordable Housing

The Dallas of the future will be denser, less geared to automobiles, and more geared to mass transit and walkable neighborhoods.
Photography by Leah Clausen

Over the next 30 years, more than two thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas, according to a United Nations report highlighting global demographic shifts. Dallas County is forecast to grow by 1.2 million over the same 30-year period. To meet the challenges this type of growth represents, Dallas must put renewed energy and effort behind developing a strategic growth plan that will allow our city to continue to be a location of choice for people and businesses.

The good news is that smart people in Dallas and in the surrounding counties are working together to determine solutions that will preserve and improve the quality of life of our city. They project that the Dallas of the future will be denser, less geared to automobiles, and more geared to mass transit and walkable neighborhoods. Indications are that our population will also be more diverse in terms of income, age, and ethnicity.

ForwardDallas! predicts that of the 220,000 new housing units that will be added to the city to meet growth, only 57,000 will be traditional single-family homes. About 87,000 will be condos, high-rise condos, or town homes. The forwardDallas! vision matches housing demand with available land and household income to determine the housing mix Dallas will need to meet the needs of all segments of our population. They predict that 31,000 units of below-market housing will be required to meet demand.

Right now, private developers rely largely on public subsidies to create low-income rental housing and homes for low-income buyers. But, the city needs to amend the zoning and plat regulations to provide for a range of residential densities suited to a variety of urban conditions. And, we need to expand housing and development programs including an infrastructure bond program, tax-exempt mortgage revenue bond financing programs, and mortgage assistance programs to support owner-occupied housing. Additional solutions are detailed in the forwardDallas! Housing Policy Plan.

All of Dallas’ developable vacant land is expected to be utilized by 2030. This will lead to smaller housing units as well as infill and urban redevelopment projects. Especially downtown, these infill projects need to include a mix of uses to ensure that downtown is lively and walkable. We also need to add additional parks like the new Pacific Plaza park adjacent to HKS’ headquarters.

Finding the right mix of luxury, affordable, rental, condominiums, senior living, and housing geared to millennials and generation Z, is our challenge. Working with city leaders, financing sources, developers, and urban designers we can map a future that will make Dallas the location of choice for people and businesses now and in the future.

Dan Noble is president, chairman, and CEO of HKS Architects.

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