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Who Really Killed State Rep. Eric Johnson’s West Dallas Affordable Housing Bill?

The bill would have addressed displacement in rapidly gentrifying West Dallas

Last week, I wrote about what was at stake in the housing battle that is unfolding in West Dallas. Eric Celeste also wrote about Eric Johnson, a West Dallas state legislator who introduced a bill that would have tried to address the way rapid development in West Dallas is displacing longtime residents who can no longer afford rent or rising property taxes. The provisions in Johnson’s bill would have allowed tax appraisers to ignore new developments when assessing home values, which would have helped stabilize tax bills for residents. It would have also required that 20 percent of Tax Increment Financing would be spent on affordable housing initiatives within two miles of the TIF district.

However, Johnson’s bill was effectively killed when five Republican representatives from suburban districts that would be largely unaffected by the bill voted to have it taken off the house calendar. In his post, Eric told you to pay attention to this move. He suggested that the real opponent of the bill wasn’t any of the five legislatures who helped kill it, but rather Roberto Alonzo, a West Dallas state rep and the brother of city council member Monica Alonzo.

Monica Alonzo has been deeply involved in the West Dallas housing fight. She is also a close horseshoe ally of Mayor Mike Rawlings, whose dealings with a low-income landlord in West Dallas kick-started the long saga that has led to the imminent eviction of around 500 residents. Monica Alonzo is also facing a difficult runoff in her bid for reelection that has been mired by accusations of voter fraud.

So were the Alonzos behind the torpedoing of Eric Johnson’s affordable housing bill? Last week, Texas Tribune reporter Brandon Formby tried to figure that one out in a fantastic piece about the entire West Dallas situation. Here’s what he reports:

The House Urban Affairs Committee unanimously approved Johnson’s bill. But five state lawmakers from outside West Dallas used a legislative maneuver Tuesday to block Johnson’s legislation from getting a vote on the House floor. State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, was one of them.

Rinaldi said he, State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and other lawmakers blocked the bevy of bills earlier this week in part because other legislators oppose them but don’t want to publicly challenge colleagues or particular pieces of legislation.

“We were willing to help them and do it when we agreed with their policy position,” Rinaldi said.

He said he didn’t like HB 2480 because it penalizes rather than incentivizes developers to create more affordable housing, something Johnson said isn’t true. Rinaldi also said some Dallas-area legislators opposed the bill. The only one he would name was State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, who did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Alonzo also represents parts of West Dallas. His sister, Monica Alonzo, is running for re-election to the Dallas City Council. Two officials from West Dallas Investments contributed a combined $10,000 to a political action committee independently supporting her and other council candidates this year. She faces a runoff against Omar Narvaez, a former Dallas community development commissioner, next month.

Rinaldi and Monica Alonzo denied that there’s any connection between the councilwoman, Trinity Groves’ developers and this week’s legislative maneuvering.

“While I come from a close family, my brother and I are keenly aware we have different spheres,” Monica Alonzo said.

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