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Overhaul Of Dallas Housing Policy Seeks To Undo History Of Racist Practices

Dallas City Council took a step toward addressing historic disparities in Dallas with the approval of 11 recommendations aimed at embedding racial equity into its comprehensive housing policy.

The city is working toward desegregating neighborhoods and improving rates of homeownership among minority residents.

“Today it is our turn to do what only we can do,” Council Member Casey Thomas said prior to the April 27 vote. “Vote to fix something that is long overdue, a housing policy that has discriminated against Black and Brown people in the city of Dallas.” 

Thomas requested an audit of the policy, which was approved in 2018 and set production goals for homeownership and rental units, in January 2021. From that audit and after numerous meetings with community stakeholders, the city identified major disparities in homeownership between Dallas’ White and minority communities.

Eleven recommendations aimed at addressing equity blind spots were then drafted by the city’s Housing and Homeless Solutions Committee.

“Just because someone is poor or low income doesn’t mean they're stupid — it just means you don’t have as much money as somebody else,” Council Member Omar Narvaez said. “We have the same needs and wants as everybody else. We want to live in a safe neighborhood, we want to have a place we can call home, we want to send our children to good schools, and, just like everybody else, we want a government that works for us.” 

One of the biggest laments from citizens and council members was a history of redlining and the inability of minority developers to obtain loans for housing projects in underserved areas. Ken Montgomery, founding partner and senior consultant at Advisor Sphere, said during public comment that unlocking funds for those developers is a crucial piece of ensuring racial equity.

“Embedded in all of these recommendations is the recognition that we have not adequately and equitably provided access to capital,” he said.

Council Member Carolyn King Arnold said there is a community of minority contractors and developers who are qualified to build but are unable to secure capital. The city should send a message to banks that won't lend by refusing to work with them, she said.

“We have to take a Rosa Parks approach,” Arnold said. “Don’t do any business with them, take our money — because we bring in quite a bit — and let them see how it feels when they have to go find other customers.”

Several members of council said they are often asked by the banking and business community how they can advance the city’s racial equity goals. Providing access to capital for minority developers is one way to help, Council Member Jaynie Schultz said.

“We must bring the financial community to the table to use their huge, huge toolbox to help our city move forward,” she said. “This is a chance for those of you in the lending industry to be heroes yourselves.”

David Noguera, director of housing and neighborhood revitalization for the city of Dallas, said his staff is partnering with lenders to address redlining. He said many banks have expressed a desire to help but are unsure of where to direct resources.

“It’s something we'll have to chip away at a bit at a time and utilize the different resources that we have, but it is well baked into these recommendations,” he said.

One of the main goals of the recommendations is to desegregate neighborhoods by creating mixed-income communities. Noguera’s staff is looking at opportunities to place lower-income households in stronger communities and market-rate households in more depressed communities. 

“It’s a weaving process that you will see us do with each project that we bring forward,” he said.

Now that the recommendations have been approved, the next step is to rewrite the policy, City Manager T.C. Broadnax said. Once the amended policy is greenlighted by council, staff will identify programs that can meet the outlined goals. Money for those programs would likely come from various sources, Broadnax said, including a potential bond proposal that would fund affordable housing projects.

Thomas said staff is also working on a citywide racial equity plan, which council will be briefed on in early August.

“We as a council have the ability to vote policies in place that will undo the policies that created this mess that we are in,” Thomas said. “If we are going to be a whole city, we have to be an equitable city.”