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Meet Dallas' Mayoral Candidates: Regina Montoya

Dallas voters will pick the city’s next mayor on May 4. 

Each of the nine candidates remaining has opined on the need for Dallas to focus on transportation, urban renewal, education, affordable housing and workforce development. But what would each candidate’s platform mean for commercial real estate?

Bisnow sent questionnaires to every candidate in the Dallas mayor’s race to find out and will run the responses of all candidates who provide feedback. 

Dallas mayoral candidate Regina Montoya

Dallas mayoral candidate Regina Montoya has a long history in Dallas’ civic, leadership and legal circles. 

The career attorney, who served Akin Gump as a partner, also worked as chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty for outgoing Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Montoya previously served as general counsel and senior vice president for Children’s Medical Center at Dallas.

Montoya's political endorsements include a few heavy hitters, such as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Montoya served President Bill Clinton as an assistant at the White House during his term. 

Whether being tied to a national political apparatus helps or hinders her campaign, Montoya has at least one local commercial real estate developer listed on her campaign finance report: Craig Hall, creator of Hall Office Park

Here are her thoughts on commercial real estate development in Dallas. 

Bisnow: What do you believe is the role of City Council when it comes to commercial developments in the city? 

Montoya: Commercial development is essential for the city’s growth. In general I want to make sure we maintain a business- and growth-friendly atmosphere. I believe the city must encourage and co-plan the process, but we need a fair and transparent approach to development that is free of undue influence. The needs of the city must be taken into account with each new development project. I believe the City Council and mayor should play the role of independent, objective evaluators of projects, using metrics that indicate the value to the community, the tax base and the needs of our residents.

Bisnow: Do you believe affordable housing is an issue in Dallas? If so, what is your plan for addressing this issue? 

Montoya: I previously announced that if elected I will ask the city manager to add to the staff that is dedicated to solving the city's housing challenges. I am willing to forgo my mayor’s salary to help cover the cost of the new staff position, one that focuses on subsidized affordable housing, lower and middle market rate housing, and more affordable rental options. Many voters are dubious that the next mayor can make a difference. Given some moments in our city's history, they have good reason to be cynical, but I'm saying yes we can. I want to add a person who is 100% focused on housing every single day, working with me, the council, city staffers, outside experts, developers and the community so we get positive movement on this.

Adding more housing units will help to stabilize the market and curb rising costs. I want to push the envelope on the city's new housing plan. I understand the need to link housing development with sustainable economic anchor points such as employers and schools like UNT Dallas, for instance. But we need to be sure we are doing all we can to leverage our opportunities to add housing options in our overlooked districts. I see this as a win-win for all of Dallas, because it will make us economically stronger, spread out our tax base and help individual people.

We need more transparent and predictable zoning and permitting. We need a sustained effort to talk to lower-cost housing developers around the country who would want to partner with Dallas to turn this issue around. We need people working on this part of the puzzle every day while the mayor and others work on the other pieces. 

Owning a home is traditionally the way people build personal wealth and security over a lifetime. We need to open access to what has been at the core of the American dream for so many. Dallas had those starter homes when I was younger. I want to see that again.

But also, I’d like to encourage developers to include lower-cost rentals in new development projects. For many millennials, they are less interested in buying a home at this point in their lives because they are not ready to settle down, yet they are still struggling with rental prices.

Bisnow: There have been instances of developers and council members throughout North Texas facing legal consequences for bribes and undue influence when it comes to housing and commercial developments. What do you plan to do to tackle that particular issue?   

Montoya: I want the city of Dallas to once again do a thorough review of ethics and finance rules, with a specific focus on the points in the process that are vulnerable to unethical and illegal activity. I want a bright spotlight and transparency on the relationship between council members, the mayor and developers and their agents and lobbyists. I also want to revamp campaign finance rules to prevent those under the age of 18 from donating, and do anything else required to prevent funneling of money through family members as a way to skirt maximum donation rules. I know that many citizens have a lack of faith in city government’s ability to make good decisions about how to use incentives, award projects and spend tax dollars. There’s an atmosphere of lax management and special favors for special interests or individuals. We must focus on this issue to improve public trust. It impacts how our city looks not only to those who live here, but also to others around the country. We need to work hard to improve our image on this issue.

Bisnow: If you only had time to focus on one issue in terms of commercial development, what issue would that be and how would you address it? 

Montoya: I want to see strong partnership and planning on new districts and development so that we get more mixed-use development, a range of housing costs, a range of commercial uses, urban density and walkability. I’d like to see strong planning relationships that involve developers, the city and citizens.

Bisnow: As more redevelopment goes on Downtown, in Fair Park and in Deep Ellum, more high-priced apartments and other facilities are coming in. What is your view of these redeveloping areas and what role do you believe the city plays in sustaining them?   

Montoya: I am all for improvements that have a positive impact on our economy and amenities for residents. I want to make sure that as we change the look of our districts we are taking into consideration the impact on those who already live there and addressing gentrification. We need developers to include a certain percentage of lower-cost housing. 

Bisnow: Why should the DFW area commercial real estate community vote for you?

Montoya: The commercial real estate community will find in me a leader who listens and constantly looks for consensus and cooperation. I may not always agree with every idea, and I will be taking into account the perspectives of many stakeholders on every decision, but I always listen and try very hard to apply the principles of collaborative leadership. Among the various candidates for mayor, I have a uniquely broad background and a wide perspective on this city and how we can work together. My experience spans industry and business, the law, nonprofits and city involvement. You can count on fairness and balance in your interactions with me. 

Reginal Montoya and four other Dallas mayoral candidates will debate CRE topics including multifamily affordability and development at Bisnow’s Multifamily Annual Conference May 2. Click here to register and to learn more about the scheduled speakers.

Bisnow does not endorse any mayoral candidate. The candidates’ responses are published in their own words.