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Dallas Mayoral Candidates Make It Clear Affordable Housing May Be Lower-Priced Than You Think

Six of nine candidates for Dallas mayor attended their final debate in front of the commercial real estate community during Bisnow’s 2019 BMAC Conference in DFW on Thursday. 

With the election scheduled for Saturday, May 4, each candidate made their final push as to how they intend to improve opportunities for affordable housing in Dallas, while also building infrastructure and adding density without harming existing residents. 

Amid their differences was one point of agreement: Anyone calling Dallas apartment rents above $1K affordable is way off the mark. 

Moderator Bohler Engineering's Jon Kendall with Dallas mayoral candidates Miguel Solis, Lynn McBee, Regina Montoya, Mike Ablon, Scott Griggs and Albert Black

Candidate Lynn McBee told the crowd a $500 rent is her baseline for affordable housing.

“I have people who cannot afford their $700 affordable housing rent,” McBee said.

Her plan is to mirror a solution she observed in other cities — a city push to create developments with blended income levels to tackle the affordability issue. 

Candidate Regina Montoya said her goal is to create housing for police officers, nurses and teachers in Dallas with an ideal price point of $180K — a level she said is in line with the salaries of Dallas' police officers. 

“Half of Dallas earns less than $50K,” she said.

Montoya suggested the city's ultimate goal should be to partner with developers to use an existing land bank to create affordable housing product, while also upgrading the city's antiquated systems to speed up the development process. In particular, Montoya wants to introduce an app that will allow developers to track their projects as they move through City Hall. 

Candidates Miguel Solis, Scott Griggs and Albert Black agreed Dallas residents should not be spending more than 30% of their incomes on housing. The solution? Griggs said it is necessary to create housing at every price point between $500 and $1K in rent, while Black noted that to serve individuals on fixed incomes or $32K or less in annual earnings, the city must conduct more agency work to subsidize affordable housing. 

Developer and candidate Mike Ablon told the crowd affordability is driven in part by access to public transportation, which has the potential to connect affordable housing constructed in more cost-effective areas to other parts of the city.

“When you talk about rent, you cannot talk about it in an isolated manner,” he said. “We have to talk about transportation.”

Ablon said until these two issues are solved together, affordability will remain an issue.

He advocated for a push toward more effective zoning and the construction of smaller units at lower price points per square foot to help with the affordability issue.  

Miguel Solis, Lynn McBee, Regina Montoya, Mike Ablon and Scott Griggs at Bisnow's 2019 Mayoral debate

Moderator Bohler Engineering's Jon Kendall asked where the candidates would focus their efforts if they could rezone any area in Dallas.

Griggs and McBee pointed to Fair Park, identifying the historic area as a place to protect from gentrification as the city brings in new developments.

Griggs said any changes will have to ensure the existing residents remain stabilized. McBee called Fair Park a “treasure trove” with three Dart stations. The only thing missing, she said, is more effective zoning and an educational opportunity positioned on fair grounds. 

Montoya selected Pleasant Grove, noting while the area is not one of concentrated poverty, it is at a tipping point and one of her strategic targets. 

Ablon and Solis agreed they would like to deal with Interstate 345, with Miguel saying he wants what is under it rezoned, with the hope it will eventually be removed.

Both Ablon and Solis agreed zoning and infrastructure changes in Dallas should have the ultimate goal of eventually connecting different parts of the city into one cohesive community. 

The election for Dallas mayor is Saturday, May 4. Click here to read profiles of each candidate.