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Program lays out roadmap to fight blight in Dallas

The effort identified what it believes could turn around three Dallas neighborhoods mired by disinvestment.
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DALLAS — Renovation and expansion of affordable housing, jobs that pay a living wage, workforce development programs and accessible business development capital are among needs identified through a program that aims to turn around three Dallas neighborhoods mired by blight and disinvestment.

The Real Estate Council laid out the plan for improving the areas in a meeting Tuesday afternoon at Old Parkland in Dallas.

The neighborhoods in the program are the Forest District in South Dallas/Fair Park, The Bottom neighborhood in East Oak Cliff and Census tract 205 in West Dallas.

The plan was developed after an extensive data collection push that included documenting housing and demographic trends, public and private investment activity, and affordability. The data collection process assessed community assets and identified development opportunities, surveyed residents, mapped property, analyzed neighborhood trends, and conducted research on local real estate and public investment trends.

Many residents in the areas selected were initially skeptical that the exercise would bring about real change, said Libbie Lee, director of Golden SEEDS investment group. Lee worked with residents in The Bottom, and those residents ultimately formed a neighborhood association, she said.

"I'm very proud to say that the community members realized and understood that when they collectively came together, there was power in what they said," Lee said.

The targeted neighborhoods share common threads including lack of opportunity, low college attainment levels, higher numbers of renters vs. homeowners, high vacant property rates and low median household incomes.

Inferior and unattainable housing is another common thread, and the plan identified mixed-income housing as a possible solution on that front, said Lisa Neergaard of buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The non-profit community design center worked with TREC and others to analyze the neighborhoods and survey residents and community leaders on the economic needs and challenges they face.

"One of the strategies we've identified is mixed-income housing," Neergaard said.

That involves the development of both market-rate and affordable housing in the same development, she said.

"You're beginning to address both historical needs of building equity and preserving current residents, but also building in diverse income types into your future neighborhood," she said.

The overall effort is called the Dallas Collaborative for Equitable Development, and it's led by the TREC Community Fund with partners that include the Dallas County Community College District, LiftFund and the Texas Mezzanine Fund.

To fund the program, TREC will receive $6 million over three years through JPMorgan Chase's Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods program. The plan is called the Community Driven Growth Report.

Specific needs spelled out in the plan include:

  • Rehabilitation and expansion of affordable, attainable housing that limits the frequency with which residents are displaced as development increases;
  • Jobs that pay a living wage and support for people re-entering the workforce;
  • Workforce development programs, job training opportunities and more accessible business development capital;
  • Grocery stores, childcare services and laundromats;
  • Increased community participation, education and leadership development among residents.

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