The Dallas program aims to protect neighborhoods from displacement, but obstacles make it difficult for seniors

The Dallas program aims to protect neighborhoods from displacement, but obstacles make it difficult for seniors
The Dallas program aims to protect neighborhoods from displacement, but obstacles make it difficult for seniors

(Photo: Mimi Perez for
Elm Thicket/Northpark (Photo Credit: Mimi Perez for

Dallas has an arsenal of tools to help homebuyers and homeowners, and city staff are working to fine-tune their 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 to a forgivable loan of up to $50,000.

Council members last month approved an amendment to the Comprehensive Housing Policy to establish the program.

“This is the beginning of a much larger strategy to help people displaced by redevelopment,” said District 11 Councilwoman Jaynie Schultz. Publisher Candace Evans is running against Schultz in the May 6 election for the District 11 seat.

Comprehensive information about 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 obstacles for homeowners

Kemeshia Richardson, a senior Elm Thicket/Northpark resident and neighborhood association secretary, said programs like DHAP are great, but they are not well publicized and have some shortcomings.

“We appreciate the programs being made available, but a lot more needs to be done to keep up with the pace of development going on in our city right now,” Richardson said. – It must be more flexible. It puts the neighborhood at risk if these changes are not made.”

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For example, many residents of Elm Thicket/Northpark live in older homes, and the foundations have been affected by runoff from new construction. But some of the homeowner assistance programs require residents to be up-to-date on their property taxes to qualify.

“When you’re dealing with low- to middle-income families, they’ve fallen behind on their property taxes. It takes a lot of money to get caught, Richardson said. “If you could afford the property taxes, you could afford to have your home repaired. They have limited income, and that makes it difficult to catch up and qualify. In addition, the programs have qualification dates. They run for a period of time and are not available again until next year. So the residents only have to live in a home that is in disrepair.”

District 14 Councilman Paul Ridley said during last week’s Housing and Homelessness Solutions Committee meeting that he wants to know more about what other communities like Austin and San Antonio are doing to attract affordable housing and reduce 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.

Fight gentrification in Elm Thicket/Northpark

Area Redevelopment Manager Thor Erickson said during a Feb. 22 council meeting that $1 million is dedicated to DHAP10, which will allow about 20 loans to be made through the program this year.

(Photo: Mimi Perez for
Elm Thicket/Northpark (Photo Credit: Mimi Perez for

City Manager TC 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.

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The increase in home values ​​and property taxes led the Elm Thicket/Northpark neighborhood in District 2 to organize and fight gentrification, which occurs when new investment floods a historically marginalized neighborhood; property values ​​rise; and a physical transformation of the neighborhood occurs.

There has been no targeted community outreach in Elm Thicket/Northpark about the city’s home rehabilitation programs, Richardson said. The information is published online and via social media, but many elderly residents do not have internet access or need help filling in an application.

“A lot of these programs seem to be more focused on the southern part of the city, south of I-30, like Joppa, 10th Street and West Dallas,” Richardson said. “I think it’s because gentrification isn’t that far along there. They can still get ahead.”

In October, Elm Thicket/Northpark residents won a yearlong 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 make it possible to build homes,” he said. – This will not stop development. This is a compromise. This softens the transition from older homes to newer developments. It is a chance to develop the neighborhood in a fair way for all residents.”

Other measures, such as DHAP’s 10-year residency requirement, are designed to help those who have lived in Dallas for generations and are struggling financially to remain in or return to their old homes.

Richardson said it’s important that assistance programs be evaluated on a household-by-household basis, rather than by neighborhood.

“Because of the gentrification currently going on in our neighborhood, you could have a low-income family living next door to an affluent neighbor,” she said.

Builders of Hope builds 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 builds affordable homes in West Dallas and does extensive research on gentrification and displacement throughout the city.

Approximately 18 local neighborhoods will be selected for “deep-dive case studies” to develop data on various stages of gentrification and displacement.

Builders of Hope broke ground on a 20-home community in West Dallas in November.

Monday’s discussion was a preliminary committee orientation; The matter is likely to 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 preventing displacement was one of 11 specific recommendations that came out of the racial equity review of the Comprehensive Housing Policy. We know we have to act now, but we want to do it intentionally.”

Dallas Districts 10 and 12 already have the most affordable housing units, Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn said.

Builders of Hope aims to create lasting and impactful policy change that “ensures that vulnerable residents of historically marginalized communities have the right to stay and the opportunity to return to their neighborhoods in the face of rapid development and rising housing costs.”

There has been an ongoing dialogue among councilors about fairness versus equality when it comes to housing.

District 12 Councilor Cara Mendelsohn pointed out in a recent housing committee meeting that Districts 10 and 12 have the most affordable housing units, and that there may not be a need for more multi-family units in these areas.

“There are urgent needs and no affordable housing available in some places that really need your attention,” she told the Builders of Hope representatives. “I’m very much in favor of what you’re doing.”

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