A portion of the Dallas skyline – The Dallas Examiner file photo



The Dallas Examiner


The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex has been considered to be one of the fastest growing regions in the United States. Over 1.3 million people call Dallas home, according to the U.S. Census. And recent projections have predicted the city will grow by 300,000 people by the year 2045.

In order to make room for everyone moving and migrating here, the question city leaders want answered is, “How they can accommodate that growth?”

The city of Dallas Planning and Urban Design Department partnered with the city’s Department of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization to host ForwardDallas Live! webinar Feb. 10. The webinar discussed updates for ForwardDallas and the housing policy update – which showed how the city is reevaluating existing land use and how this affects housing affordability, choice and displacement.

Guest speakers were Andrea Gilles, assistant director for Planning and Urban Design, and Thor Erickson, assistant director of the Department of Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization.

“We need to figure out where we’re going to accommodate those people and it’s not just where they work, but it’s also where they live and figuring that out within our city,” Gilles said. “Through this ForwardDallas process, we’ve been doing a lot of engagement and outreach and talking to folks. And one of the biggest concerns that we keep hearing about is affordability. How can I stay? How can I remain living in Dallas? I’m concerned about my mortgage or even paying rent, gentrification and displacement.

“We have a lot of changing neighborhoods in the city right now. And we have to figure out solutions for that. A lot of it is market driven. But there are also a lot of things that jurisdictions and municipalities can do. And so we’re specifically thinking about from a land use and zoning and housing perspective, how can we work on some of these issues?”

The Southern Service areas of the city includes 87% of all heavy industrial use and 89% of all vacant land, according to the recent ForwardDallas conditions report.

“People ask often, why a land use plan, why a city would use a wide land use plan, and the colors on the screen on that map represent the areas where we have land use plans adopted for the city,” Gilles said. “We have a lot of plans, but not all of them have land use components that sort of guide and provide a vision and guidance for future development. So we have a significant portion of the city that doesn’t have any land use guidance. So that plays into equity. It plays into development. It plays into infrastructure funding and making sure that we’re providing a level of predictability. So ideally through ForwardDallas, they were able to fill in the gaps for some of those areas that don’t have that land use guidance.”

Gilles said the city has grown and changed since the last ForwardDallas plan from 2006. She said the goal is to figure out how and where specifically Dallas needs to grow.

“We talk a lot about growth, but then we also have to talk about at the same time, where do we want to preserve and maintain because there are those areas as well,” she said. “We have a lot of plans throughout the city. But as we’re going out through ForwardDallas engagement, we regularly hear that one of the biggest critiques was that we’re doing all of these plans, but we haven’t implemented them. So we do want to make that an area of focus of this plan.”

Gilles said after speaking with residents and getting public comments about the land use, people’s main concerns are how they can get access to housing accessibility and the discussion about how this land use plan can help with that.

“It’s gentrification, its displacement, its affordability that concerns people,” she said. “But then we’re also hearing a lot about wanting to live in certain neighborhoods. I want to live in certain parts of the city, but it doesn’t seem like there are housing types that are 1) available to me and 2) that I can afford. That the amount of housing options or housing choice just isn’t there in the city of Dallas. So what can we do through land use and zoning to help accommodate some of those housing types people are looking for. So through our city-wide land use plan, we’re looking at different place types, which is just a mix of different land uses and different future land uses.”

Gilles believes housing needs in the area need to be looked at through an equitable lens.

“We also hear a lot about oh, there’s much more housing going in this area than in this area or much more this type of housing, housing going here versus there,” Gilles said. “When we look at it from the city-wide perspective, we can look at it through an equitable lens about, you know, is that the case and doing that analysis to really map where some areas are taking on more than others or maybe not? And then also making sure that the policy recommendations for housing are in the land use plan.”

She also recommended an update to the city’s zoning codes.

“If we don’t have the zoning tools to make that happen, then it’s just a vision,” she said. “It’s an implementable vision. So very early on, we also recognized that we need a lot of updates to our zoning code. So part of our work through ForwardDallas is developing those recommendations, those written recommendations along with the map that will help implement the guidance in the map. So if we’re saying that everyone talks a lot about the missing middle housing, such as duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, a small courtyard housing, those smaller scale developments that you see in a lot of older neighborhoods, but now because we don’t have a zoning to build it, then, that’s one of the reasons why it doesn’t get built. You can either build a single-family home or you can build an apartment, in between, we don’t really have the zoning for it, or we don’t have enough protections for the single-family neighborhoods that are concerned about incorporating additional gentle density into those neighborhoods. They don’t have the design or those safeguards, the urban design that would speak to the blending of those different uses.”

Gilles summed up that part of her department’s goal is to look at how the city can update the development code and make certain zoning tools for different types of development.

“It’s really hard to have to go back and change and go through the zoning process every single time that we need to figure out an easier way to develop different kinds of housing at different types of affordability,” Gilles stated.

Erickson spoke next about the housing situation and needs in Dallas and why they are seeking an update on the policy.

In 2018, the comprehensive housing policy was created and adopted to address compliance issues and transparency to make sure all documents were in one document and all the rules and regulations were posted.

“That’s been our guiding document since 2018, Erickson said. “Every time we have a new program, we amend it. There was a goal stated of 20,000 units without a lot of context to where they needed, what type of houses are needed. Why is that the number to solve the problem? Are they going to put a dent in it? We all know that people are moving to our region faster than other regions in the country. We constantly need to produce more housing in order to serve them. And when people have the opportunity to move into a new home, we have some of the homes that are affordable on the market for people. We have a need for a mix of rental opportunities across the city. We have some areas where we have an abundance of rental and a lot of homeownership opportunities are places where there’s an abundance of homeownership opportunities on rental, and that all relates back to land use.”

He said a lot of the single-family zoning allows for one typology of housing unit and neighborhoods that are vibrant and diverse have a mixture of housing opportunities.

“Part of working on the comprehensive housing policy was understanding who had benefits and burdens, what programs are available and for whom,” Erickson said. In January 2021, the Housing Committee asked us to do a racial equity audit of our policy to understand what the benefits and burdens were, and what were the gaps in the current policy. And then December 2021, those audit findings were produced, and those findings created 11 recommendations and those were then adopted in April 2022. At that point, it was really understanding those recommendations and having community engagement around it.”

He concluded that there was quite a bit of information that they needed to not only update the comprehensive housing policy but create a new housing policy that would be more aligned with the work and with the community engagement process.

Seven pillars of housing equity were presented to the committee in December of 2022 and are the foundation of the new Dallas housing policy which will be briefed again on March 1 to the full city council.

The update focuses on what the city is doing to prevent displacement.

The seven housing pillars include having equity strategy target areas.

“We’ll be conducting a robust data analysis to identify where there are the best strategic opportunities to focus our resources,” Erickson said. “One of the questions in the chat is asking us about producing more homeownership opportunities in some districts where there’s an abundance of affordable units. The data and identification of these targets will identify where those types of needs and imbalances exist throughout the city. And we will have community engagement that supports that as well as data to identify where those targeted areas will be.”

They will also focus on city wide production.

“Production has to happen across the city and where it happens and the type of production will vary based upon the needs across the city,” he said. “As we have citywide preservation, we have to preserve affordable rental units and we have to preserve homeownership for folks that need home repair or have title issues or want to buy new affordable homes. We have to work to preserve the unit so that they are available to do those activities.”

Another area is having proper infrastructure.

“From having streets be in good condition, to the water and sewer pipes to broadband internet and all the other neighborhood amenities like bike lanes and access to parks and the things that make neighborhoods,” he said. “Neighborhoods have to be supported in our work. The Housing Department can’t go it alone. So the collaboration and coordination is about forming strong partnerships with other departments making sure that we work together and forming strong partnerships with external partners that will deliver some of the work with us. Because in order to really address housing throughout the city, we need multiple partners that are able to do this work together.”

The other pillar includes engagement with city leaders and departments and having the community involved as well.

“We currently have a housing policy taskforce of over 600 people on a listserv, they provide really great input,” Erickson said. “We have really great meetings, but we know we can do even more and engage many of our programs that have been developed with community members through both focus groups and community meetings. All of our work needs to be more transparent and inclusive of the community. Much like the ForwardDallas process of making sure that our work is developed with people in certain places and across the city.

Another important pillar is education, understanding and impacting what affordable housing is having and understanding the history of placement and the historical decisions that have happened so that they can address the current conditions in place and build places together that are more inclusive and aware of the displacement factors such as gentrification and to support housing initiatives throughout the city

“All of the work that we’re doing in terms of bringing this new policy forward, just continues our success over the last few years,” Erickson said. “The comprehensive housing policy has laid a really strong foundation, the foundation for how we do work. This new iteration of the policy will bring more transparency and accountability and ability to really focus and have a greater impact in places while still serving the entire city.”

Diane Xavier received her bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Texas A&M University in 2003. She has been a journalist for over 20 years covering everything from news, sports, politics and health....

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