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The Affordable Housing Shortage Hits Dallas Almost As Hard As California Metros

The lack of affordable housing and its attendant woe, homelessness, is such a thorny problem that no single policy change at any level of government will solve it.

Even so, according to CitySquare CEO Larry James, who is also author of "The Wealth of the Poor, How Valuing Every Neighbor Restores Hope in Our Cities,” some changes would have an immediate impact on the problem in Dallas and Houston.

CitySquare CEO Larry James

"If I could make one policy change to help end homelessness in Dallas, it would be to make 'payer source discrimination' a violation of state and federal Fair Housing laws," said James, who will be a speaker at Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference South on June 28. 

Landlords in Dallas are not under any obligation to accept the payment of a homeless person to lease an apartment, James said, a situation that he terms "payer source discrimination."

Such a change would be enforceable by local municipalities, with state financial assistance for stepped-up compliance via the establishment of an Office of Fair Housing Enforcement at City Hall, James said.

Among metro areas with the most severe shortages of affordable rental housing, DFW and Houston are in the nation's top 10, along with better-known housing-crisis metros like Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

For every 100 renters in metro DFW, there are only 19 low-income housing units available locally, the same as in metro Houston, the organization reports. That is only marginally better than in Los Angeles, which has 17, making it the second-worst housing market for low-income renters (after only Las Vegas).

The number of homeless people in Dallas and Collin counties was up 9% from last year, according to homeless census data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year. 

The 2018 annual census counted 4,140 homeless people in the two counties in January, up from 3,789 counted a year earlier. That includes people living in shelters. There was also a 23% increase in the unsheltered, or those who live on the streets.


According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President, Community Development Banking Valerie Williams, there are two great challenges to providing affordable housing.

"One is a lack of a strategic housing policy at the local, state and national levels to address the need for housing that's affordable," she said. "Given the lack of any policy, there's no focus or strategic direction on how to fund affordable housing."

The other obstacle to more affordable housing is perhaps more intractable, since it is a matter of widespread attitude. 

"The other challenge is NIMBYism," Williams said. "There's deep misunderstanding within our society about who will benefit from housing that is affordable."

Both James and Williams will discuss affordable and workforce housing at Bisnow's Multifamily Annual Conference South on June 28 at the Westin Galleria Dallas.