Dallas has an arsenal of tools to assist homebuyers and homeowners, and city staff is working to fine-tune its programs to protect against displacement and gentrification, officials said recently.
One such tool is the Dallas Anti-Displacement Homebuyer Assistance Program, which allows buyers who have lived in Dallas for at least 10 years and have an annual household income between 50 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income access a forgivable loan of up to $50,000.
Council members approved last month an amendment to the Comprehensive Housing Policy to establish the program.
“This is the beginning of a much larger strategy toward helping people who are being displaced because of redevelopment,” said District 11 Councilwoman Jaynie Schultz.
Comprehensive information on the Dallas Homebuyer Assistance Program (DHAP), and the specific initiative referred to as “DHAP 10” is available online, including eligibility requirements, funding limits, and how to apply.
Unnecessary Hurdles For Homeowners
Kemeshia Richardson, a legacy resident of Elm Thicket/Northpark and the neighborhood association’s secretary, said programs like DHAP are great, but they’re not well-publicized and have some flaws.
“We do appreciate the programs being made available but a lot more needs to be done to keep up with the rate of development that’s going on in our city right now,” Richardson said. “It has to be more flexible. It puts the neighborhood at risk if those changes aren’t made.”
For example, many residents of Elm Thicket/Northpark are living in older homes and the foundations have been impacted by runoff from new construction. But some of the homeowner assistance programs require residents to be current on their property taxes in order to qualify.
“When you’re dealing with lower to mid-income families, they’ve gotten behind on their property taxes. It takes a lot of money to get caught up,” Richardson said. “If you could afford the property taxes, you could afford to get your home repaired. They’re on limited incomes and it makes it difficult to catch up and qualify. On top of that the programs have qualifying dates. They run for a period of time and aren’t available again until the next year. So the residents just have to live in a home that’s in disrepair.”
District 14 Councilman Paul Ridley said during last week’s meeting of the Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee that he wants to know more about what other communities like Austin and San Antonio are doing to attract affordable housing and mitigate displacement and gentrification.
“We’ve all known it’s been a problem for years, but there hasn’t been much discussion about how to cure it,” Ridley said.
Fighting Gentrification in Elm Thicket/Northpark
Area Redevelopment Manager Thor Erickson said during a Feb. 22 council meeting that $1 million is dedicated to the DHAP10, which will allow about 20 loans to be granted through the program this year.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax added that a total of $20 million is targeted in this year’s budget for equity-related projects.
Property values have doubled and tripled in some areas in recent years.
The hike in home values and property taxes led District 2’s Elm Thicket/Northpark neighborhood to organize and fight gentrification, which happens when new investment floods a historically marginalized neighborhood; property values rise; and a physical transformation of the neighborhood occurs.
There hasn’t been any targeted community outreach in Elm Thicket/Northpark about the city’s home rehab programs, Richardson said. The information is posted online and via social media, but many senior residents don’t have Internet access or need assistance in filling out an application.
“A lot of those programs seem to be more focused on the southern part of town, south of I-30, like Joppa, 10th Street, and West Dallas,” Richardson said. “I think that’s because gentrification is not as far along there. They can still get ahead of it.”
In October, Elm Thicket/Northpark residents won a years-long battle to limit lot size and height in the neighborhood, among other things, effectively halting new construction of “McMansions” in the established single-family subdivision.
District 2 Councilman Jesse Moreno, who represents the area, said at the time that the zoning changes were “a step in the right direction.”
“The standard changes will allow for homes to be built,” he said. “This will not stop development. This is a compromise. This softens the transition from legacy homes to newer development. It is a chance to build out the neighborhood in an equitable manner for all residents.”
Other measures, like DHAP’s 10-year residency requirement, are designed to assist those who have lived in Dallas for generations and are struggling financially to remain in or return to their legacy homes.
Richardson said it’s important for assistance programs to be considered on a household-by-household basis, rather than by neighborhood.
“Because of the gentrification that’s currently going on in our neighborhood, you may have a low-income family living next to an affluent neighbor,” she said.
Builders of Hope Build The Future
The City of Dallas Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee heard a progress report last week on the “Dallas Anti-Displacement Toolkit” from James Armstrong and Stephanie Champion of Builders of Hope. The team is building affordable homes in West Dallas and doing extensive research on gentrification and displacement throughout the city.
About 18 local neighborhoods will be selected for “deep-dive case studies” to develop data on various stages of gentrification and displacement.
Monday’s discussion was a preliminary committee briefing; the matter will likely go before the full council at a later date for more feedback and specific deliverables.
Dallas underwent extensive gentrification between 2000 and 2013, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Champion said.
“We know that residential displacement is a pressing concern in neighborhoods throughout our city,” she said. “We know that displacement prevention was one of 11 specific recommendations that came out of the racial equity audit of the Comprehensive Housing Policy. We know we need to act now, but we want to do so intentionally.”
Builders of Hope aims to create lasting and impactful policy change that “ensures that vulnerable residents in historically-marginalized communities have the right to stay as well as the opportunity to return to their neighborhoods in the face of rapid development and rising housing costs.”
There’s been an ongoing dialogue among council members about equity versus equality when it comes to housing.
District 12 Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn pointed out in a recent housing committee meeting that Districts 10 and 12 have the most affordable housing units, and additional multi-family units may not be needed in those areas.
“There are urgent needs and no affordable housing readily available in some places that really need your attention,” she told the Builders of Hope representatives. “I’m very much in support of what you’re doing.”