Among the Dallas City Council, it will be difficult to even discuss adding light density—duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes—to neighborhoods that presently allow only single-family homes. A Tuesday morning meeting about researching the matter was more pugilistic than instructive, as a majority of the Council’s housing committee sought to quash even the possibility of adjusting the mix of housing types in these neighborhoods.
Briefings aren’t usually so punchy. The purpose of this special meeting of the City Council’s Housing and Homelessness Committee was to talk, for staff to explain its process and gather questions from council members as City Hall rewrites its land use and development codes. These discussions are perhaps the most important happening today at 1500 Marilla. They will shape how our city grows (or doesn’t) by dictating what can be built and where.
Dallas neighborhoods are becoming more expensive. According to a recent analysis of the market, most residential construction creates houses that sell for a median of $1.4 million. After that, we build a bunch of houses that cost about $670,000. A different analysis found a gulf of 33,600 rental units for individuals who make 50 percent of the area’s median income, which, based on analysis of Census labor data, includes more than one third of the city’s residents.
In short, too many people already can’t afford to live here. What happens if you buy a $1.4 million house but can’t find a nearby dry cleaner because the owner of that business had to move to Celina? Furthermore, duplexes and triplexes contribute more per acre to a city’s tax base than a single-family home. This is a math problem. The city isn’t advocating for doing away with single-family; it wants to research the result of creating more of a mix of housing types, which, if successful over time, will contribute more to the city’s tax base than the status quo.
There are, of course, many reasons for these market trends. Some things the city has control over (permit processing, for instance) and others it does not (interest rates, supply-chain problems). City staff are tackling one of the things that could help impact the supply: allowing more than one unit of housing on lots that presently can hold only one.
Staff on Tuesday presented to a largely hostile audience, one that had little patience for suggestions that could change the makeup of most of the city’s zoning. The takeaway among six of the nine members who attended the meeting: stay away from our single-family residential neighborhoods. “I want the families in the single-family districts to know we have their best interests at heart,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold, whose District 4 includes south and east Oak Cliff.