Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
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TWO VIEWS OF HOUSING: The Businessman and The Activist

By R.W. |

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THE COL-liding “we’s” over the use of physical space in the city-we the rich and we the poor, we the black and we the white and we the Hispanic, we the single-family home dwellers and we the apartment livers, all of us passionately territorial in our battles. In many ways, Dale Kesler, chairman of the Mayor’s Dallas Housing Task Force, and John Fullinwider, leader of the Common Ground housing cooperative that builds and renovates homes for low-income families, symbolize two sides of the housing problem. Kesler, managing partner for the Dallas/Fort Worth office of the Arthur Andersen & Co. accounting firm, is Mr. Business personified. Heavy in girth, bristling with success, he issues marching orders from his office on InterFirst Plaza’s fifty-sixth floor before lunching with the mayor. He also directs the fifty-three-member housing task force (which includes Fullinwider), with its $250,000 budget and large staff. Fullinwider, the thin hippy-teacher-community activist with his granny glasses, thick beard, pony tail, and gentle manner, drives a VW van and works from his storefront office on East Grand.

Kesler is proud of the task force’s nine months’ work and report. “I think we made great progress toward our number one goal of rehabilitation and keeping the low-income housing units we already have on the ground. We recommend redirecting $9.1 million of the Community Development Block Grants, money for streets, curbs, etc., to go specifically for housing, and also using a revolving loan fund for rehabilitation.” He discussed other parts of the report’s “Two-Year Action Plan” (increased code enforcement, creating neighborhood housing centers, and a computer data base of housing information); he has hopes for intermediate solutions (tax-exempt bonds, property tax abatements for developers), but he admits defeat on the question of raising large sums of money over a long period of time.

Fullinwider, however, is greatly disappointed in the task force’s findings. “We never addressed the fundamental problem of competing interests, the market forces that are destroying low-income housing that are the real estate developers and real estate market. All we did was a mild urging to extend existing programs, mainly through bond financing, which is a proven failure,” says Fullinwider. Kesler, the businessman, does not think regulatory sanctions imposed on the building-financial community by the city council will work, that a combination of public officials-private industry working together is The Way. Fullinwider believes that only firm governmental action will solve the problem. Both men are puzzled over why Dallas citizens aren’t up in arms over this most basic problem as they are about crime, drugs, and the homeless.

And both Dale Kesler and John Fullinwider know one thing is certain. The crisis will continue and get worse.

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