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

Councilman Tennell Atkins, District 8, confronted concerns about the policy addressing gentrification, stating that the Economic Development and Housing committee has many “tools in the toolbox” to prevent this issue. The plan includes lowering tax rates, freezing property tax in low-income areas and providing incentives to low-rent landlords to fix rental properties.

“It may not be the best, but we do address it,” he said. “Some people may wonder why their neighborhood isn’t in that circle. It’s something we have to look at. We don’t want to stop the city from growing because you are not in those [markets].”

Within those same markets, specifically the emerging market area, housing development is halted due to the need for infrastructure, which has been needed in those areas for years.

“My argument to that is you should be doing that anyway all along,” Roberts expressed. “Even though low income people are here and tax people are they should be doing that.”

The overarching issue those who are against the plan have is the lack of funding coming to Southern Dallas compared to Northern Dallas.

“We acknowledge that the city might have limited funds but that’s why the funds should be directed to those neighborhoods that have been neglected,” Ragsdale said.

Atkins, who is also the chair of the Economic Development and Housing committee that created the policy, recognized the issue between housing development in North Dallas and South Dallas.

“Until we take more of the equitable North and put more in the South, we’re still going to have an ongoing situation,” he said. “You have to share equity across the board.”

Felder indicated that the funding problem is more of a federal issue than local issue and that funding is limited as a result of inadequate federal funding.

“The only issues are the federal dollars,” he said. “We don’t have an endless supply of money.”

Despite the back and forth, community leaders and developers continue to bring awareness to the new housing policy and finding ways to ensure affordable housing is provided in those areas.

“We need to demand what we want,” Roberts expressed. “[People] need to monitor this housing policy and ask when am I going to get housing in my area.”

A City Council taskforce will be re-evaluating the policy yearly and may change different elements throughout the year. Atkins noted that the new housing plan is a starting point that is open to change from community members and residents are able to contact his office if they have any questions about the new policy.

“Rules are rules, but policy can be changed,”he said. “All the policies we make aren’t set in stone. These policies may not work. We have to find out down the road if they don’t work.”