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Dallas City Council Votes on a Racial Equity Housing Plan on Wednesday. Here Is What Advocates Hope It Accomplishes.

A consultant found that Dallas’ housing policy, passed in 2018, is “silent on equity” and doesn’t do enough to lift up Black and Latino neighborhoods.
By Audrey McClure |
A deceptively quiet-looking Dallas City Hall. Photo by Kelsey Shoemaker.

The Dallas City Council on Wednesday will vote on final changes to improve racial equity in its citywide Comprehensive Housing Policy, which was passed in 2018 but has not yet generated enough affordable units in neighborhoods with easy access to jobs, services, and public amenities. 

Council members were briefed in March about a consultant’s recommendations on how to better incorporate equity in the city’s housing policy. For many council and community members, however, the presentation’s findings were an unsurprising and even “redundant” reminder of decades-old financial disinvestment and unaddressed disparities.

“Achieving greater equity through Dallas’s housing policies will require a bold action plan that is equitable, community-driven, well-resourced and rooted in accountability,” consultant Christine Campbell told the council during the March presentation. “For any housing policy to be effective, it needs to really reflect the voices of the whole community.”

The CHP was originally adopted and implemented by the city in 2018 as a policy framework for investing in more mixed-income and affordable housing in “higher opportunity” neighborhoods. Dallas has a history of concentrating its affordable units in neighborhoods that had gaps in infrastructure, transportation, and job opportunities.

In 2018, researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington published a fair housing study that found that federally-defined Racially/Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty have doubled in Dallas since 1990. The 36 R/ECAPs, as they’re abbreviated, count at least 50 percent non-White residents and at least 40 percent who lived below the poverty line, which at the time was about $25,100 for a family of four. Of those, 28 were below Interstate 30.

In fact, Darryl Baker, a former city employee and a housing advocate, filed a complaint this month with the Department of Housing and Urban Development that alleged the city had used federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to pack subsidized apartment buildings in some of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods. HUD is investigating, and the city was required to submit its initial response on Monday.  

The Racial Equity Audit shares similarities with Baker’s suit. Finalized by TDA Consulting in December, the audit criticized CHP for being “silent on equity” and failing to tackle the historical barriers that have left the city’s Black and Hispanic communities bearing the brunt of infrastructure disparities, rising property taxes, and environmental pollution. 

Recent research by SMU found 62 “infrastructure deserts,” most of which are located in southern Dallas. They often lack sidewalks, have poor access to medical care and high-speed Internet, and damaged streets. One of the 11 recommendations in the audit is to remedy “the enormous infrastructure deficit that has persisted in southern Dallas for generations.”

Councilman Casey Thomas, chair of Dallas’ Housing and Homeless Solutions Committee, called for the audit in January of 2021 to see which policies, if any, were contributing to racial disparities in housing. Thomas and his team supported all 11 of TDA Consulting’s policy recommendations, which he says could help alleviate racial disparities in key areas such as home ownership. 

“We need everybody to be all in,” Thomas said of the changes, for which housing staff hope to create an implementation plan by December. “Changing the mindset from ‘equality’ to ‘equity’ is key…It requires a commitment and a sacrifice to make sure that those who have not had basic resources, services, infrastructure, are able to receive these basic services to address the unlevel playing field.”

Campbell and her consulting team interviewed residents in neighborhoods south and west of Interstate 30. They analyzed pollution, infrastructure, and homeownership data to arrive at their policy recommendations. In addition to guidelines in setting standards for accountability and goals, the report recommends greater investments targeted in the southern parts of the city. Campbell advocates for the city to add an equity component to inform its expenditures, a way to improve services provided to neighborhoods that have been historically overlooked at City Hall.

“Where there’s a desire to level the playing field, it’s not just going to be about spreading resources over equally,” Campbell said. “There’s going to need to be significant new investment, and financial and human resources focused on infrastructure and really addressing the opportunity deficits in southern Dallas.”

While council members agreed on the findings, several expressed concern and frustration that, as with past efforts to increase equity in Dallas, they would be unable to garner the necessary financial momentum. Councilwoman Paula Blackmon, who represents District 9 near White Rock Lake, emphasized that several council members would have to sacrifice portions of their district’s budgets to bring about the recommended investments in other districts. 

“We can have a policy in place or a study that we all sing Kumbaya about—and then we get back to October and it’s Hunger Games,” said Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who represents South Dallas and Fair Park in District 7, of past budgetary seasons. “I encourage council members with districts who will have to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish some goals, to think about the times when those of us who serve districts who need a little bit more didn’t have the opportunity to make the choice to sacrifice.”

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson acknowledged the longstanding budgetary conflicts, but praised the current council’s united efforts to improve equity in the city. The measures adopted during Wednesday’s vote will likely provide a preview into planning for the October budget season.   

 “We are at a historical moment and we have the ability to reestablish trust with residents who live in Black and Brown communities. We have the authority to change policies that historically discriminated and set a high bar for communities of color,” Thomas said. “With the blueprint laid out before us, the question is: do we have the will to do it?’”

The full resolution is below:

D Magazine is a member of the Dallas Media Collaborative, a group of local news outlets, nonprofits, and one performance art organization aligned to explore affordable housing in North Texas. This story is reported in partnership with the Dallas Media Collaborative, with support from the Solutions Journalism Network. For more stories, visit dallasmediacollab.com. Have ideas for us? Email [email protected].

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