Dallas city leaders hash out new plan to fix affordable housing issue

For years, the city of Dallas spent tens of millions of dollars on affordable housing with no plan for how tax money would be used.

The city’s plan changed on Wednesday with a unanimous vote by city council. But some critics are concerned the housing plan doesn't go far enough.

Even with the construction boom in Dallas, there is a big shortage of affordable housing. The city estimates it needs 20,000 more units. The council believes its plan will help build that housing and not just in low-income areas.

Karen Roberts is one of many Dallas homeowners seeing big changes in her neighborhood. Modern-style custom homes around her are being sold for nearly $700,000.

"My neighbor keeps calling them dental offices. They look like offices. They really don't look like homes,” she said. “My house is appraised for less than $100,000. But my taxes are going to go up go up every year."

The homestead exemption for seniors only applies to homes that appraise for less than $90,000.

“I'm hoping to stay another 10-20 years,” Roberts said. “Maybe I'll have to move because I can't afford the taxes.”

And it's not just homeowners. Renters also came to city hall to complain that they're being priced out of their apartments. Some have seen a $300 increase in monthly rent.

For decades, the city has operated without a housing plan. City records show many projects had nothing to show for how the city determined costs were reasonable.

The new plan would prioritize specific neighborhoods around the city for affordable housing to avoid concentrating the development in poor neighborhoods.

But overall, Sandy Rollins with the Texas Tenants’ Union is worried the city's poorest residents will still be left out.

"They talk about wanting housing for school teachers and policemen. What we need is housing also for teacher’s aids and security guards,” Rollins said.

City Councilman Scott Griggs calls this the first step and will ultimately help the very people who are concerned.

"We can all agree over the past couple of decades, the tens of millions we spent on housing throughout the city of Dallas, particularly Southern Dallas, hasn't gotten the results we wanted because we didn't have a plan,” he said. “Now, we have a plan."

Several renters have had trouble finding landlords who will accept their housing vouchers from HUD. The city's new plan will provide incentives for landlords who accept the vouchers.