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South Dallas: A neighborhood left behind

DENISHA McKNIGHT | 7/4/2018, 2:20 p.m.
It has been over a month since the city of Dallas has enacted its first housing policy, leaving many pros ...
A Pittman Place community home in South Dallas, built by the South Dallas Fair Park Innercity Community Development Corporation. NNPA

The Dallas Examiner

It has been over a month since the city of Dallas has enacted its first housing policy, leaving many pros and cons for Southern Dallas citizens.

The comprehensive policy was a designed blueprint used to address gentrification in impoverished areas and achieve the city’s goal of creating 20,000 housing units.

After a year of council meetings and debates, the policy was approved unanimously with 15-0 vote, May 9, despite some councilmembers’ objection.

“It is not what I would have preferred it to be,” said Councilman Kevin Felder, District 7. “It focuses on a small sliver of South Dallas. I’m very disappointed in that. I voted against that, but you have to understand, it takes eight people around a horseshoe to get anything changed.”

Criticism of the policy stretched beyond the horseshoe to local Southern Dallas residents.

“My general opinions about the new fair housing policy is that it redlines parts of South Dallas and Oak Cliff,” said Sherman Roberts, CEO of City Wide Community Development Corporation.

Some residents feel as if the new fair housing approach disenfranchises low-income areas in Southern Dallas and fails to provide enough funding to those areas for housing development.

“What people have to understand at large is that there is a policy that conveys that some neighborhoods are too poor to be helped,” said former Dallas city councilwoman Diane Ragsdale. “It is, in essence, excluding most of Southern Dallas, which further serves to penalize a neighborhood that has already been neglected by the city of Dallas.”

The new policy breaks up different areas into three sections to help identify what each neighborhood needs and how to distribute incentives to developers in those areas to create housing by using a market value analysis gathered by a city council conducted survey.

• Redevelopment areas: Neighborhoods that have development already planned in the next year and ready for future development. This circle includes Midtown, the Cedars, Wynnewood and Red Bird.

• Stabilization areas: Areas with low-income residents whom are at risk of gentrification – which include LBJ Skillman, Vickery Meadow, Casa View, Forest Heights/ Cornerstone Heights, East Downtown, The Bottom, West Dallas and Red Bird North.

• Emerging Market Areas: Neighborhoods that need significant improvement, such as infrastructure, code enforcement and crime reduction before new development could be created. These areas are deemed as Southern Gateway, Pleasant Grove and University Hills.

One of the criticism of this policy breakdown, is the use of market value analysis that isn’t favorable for all Southern Dallas residents.

“A market value analysis doesn’t tell the true story,” Roberts said. “A market value analysis just tells what we already know ... where the low-income housing is and where the high-income housing is.”

The scale used to create the policy, along with the three segments, excludes many neighborhoods that need funding and has critics question whether it addresses gentrification or enhances it.

“You do development in all these areas,” said Roberts, who is also developing affordable homes in the Lancaster corridor and UNT Dallas surrounding area. “You can’t just say here are the circles I want to do it in.”