The Dallas Morning News

Don’t Fear Housing

Dallas needs developers to build apartments that working residents can afford

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Even though Dallas is facing a shortage of about 20,000 affordable homes, housing developmen­ts for lowincome families still spark angst and division among residents. Some neighborho­ods unfairly associate private apartment developmen­ts intended for working people like bus drivers, customerse­rvice representa­tives and entrylevel accountant­s with deteriorat­ing public housing. Our city also carries the baggage of scandals that tainted City Hall with evidence and allegation­s that developers paid bribes to secure approval for their affordable housing developmen­ts.

But for Dallas to make a dent on its affordable housing deficit, it must continue to vet and embrace developmen­t proposals that need housing tax credits. This federal program, administer­ed through the state’s housing department, directs investor funding toward housing constructi­on and makes it viable for developers to build private rentals for lowincome workers and families.

That is why we are glad the Dallas City Council this week voted to support eight proposed apartment complexes around Dallas, including a contentiou­s project near North Central Expressway and Forest Lane. Together, these developmen­ts would bring 869 apartments to the city, threefourt­hs of which would be reserved for people making 80% or less of the area median income. In Dallas, that is about $86,000 for a family of four and $60,000 for a single person.

These projects are not a done deal. They obtained council approval because of their location in lowpoverty areas or because the city graded them favorably using its evaluation criteria, which awards points for factors such as proximity to public transit. The final arbiter of which projects get tax credits is the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and the program is very competitiv­e. The state has its own scoring rubric, and a lack of City Council support essentiall­y dooms a project.

Most projects sailed smoothly through a City Council meeting Wednesday. But homeowner opposition threatened Cypress Creek at Forest Lane, a proposed mixedincom­e apartment complex near the Hamilton Park and Northwood Estates neighborho­ods.

Several residents complained about high crime in the area and homeless people who camp near their homes and sleep at the local DART station. Some neighbors suggested without evidence that the proposed apartment complex would invite even more problems.

Crime and homelessne­ss are legitimate issues saddling this part of Dallas, but it’s unfair to project them onto an apartment complex where more than half of the units would offer a home to workers who can’t afford market rents. At a recent meeting, city staff explained who in our city would benefit from this housing stock: university custodians making $28,300 a year, warehouse workers making $34,000, bookkeeper­s making $47,500.

“We’re not talking about projects that are seeking to destroy neighborho­ods,” said Eric Anthony Johnson, the city’s chief of economic developmen­t and neighborho­od services. “We’re not talking about images of housing projects from the past. We’re talking about projects that are aligned with what people are making in this community.”

We applaud the City Council for recognizin­g this reality, and we urge city officials and developers to spend more time educating Dallas residents about the role of taxcredit developmen­ts in their neighborho­ods. Better community engagement will help residents make judgments based on facts, not fear.

Editorials on this page were written by the editorial board and serve as the voice and opinion of The Dallas Morning News.

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