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Community Advocates Fight for Freedom Regarding Affordable Housing

Call for equity and fair treatment elevated

By Sylvia Dunnavant Hines

Commissioner
Commissioner Lorie Blair

In the aftermath of Juneteenth, local community activists are still pursuing freedom when it comes to affordable housing in the Southern Sector of Dallas.

Although the Dallas City Council recently approved more than $7.9 million in federal funds for a planned affordable housing community in District 4, those working in the trenches of that community still don’t feel that enough is being done to break barriers that are keeping the minority community from being home-owners.

“You don’t need affordable housing in areas where the housing is already affordable” said Darryl Baker, a local fair housing advocate with the Group Fair Share for all Dallas. “My greatest input has been on the fair housing side regarding what the city is doing and not doing. Affordable housing can’t just be relegated to be built in South Dallas. It needs to be built throughout the city.”

Currently the new community development will be an apartment complex of 300 units. The project is called The Terrace at Southern Oaks, and the first units are anticipated to be available as soon as Fall Non-subsidized rates will range from $900 up to approximately $2,000 monthly.

“The money the city is spending for apartments could be better used to help people in the community become homeowners of single-family homes,” said Baker. “This would be a better use of our tax dollars than paying developers for building an apartment complex.

“I understand that home ownership is not for everyone, but some of the funding could be used to help give assistance to those that are facing challenges in getting their own home.”

Baker and his organization recently filed a complaint with the Federal Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to investigate the City of Dallas’ policies and practices regarding affordable housing.

The complaint includes allegations that Dallas clusters subsidized affordable housing development in the Southern Sector of Dallas.

Baker is committed to working on providing equity in housing for all minorities.

“When affordable housing is truly implemented it will no longer look like there is a rich part of town and poor part of town,” he said. “I think that is where we must at least start. People who work in lower paid jobs need to have affordable options closer to where they work. Ideally, they should be able to live within a 30-mile radius of where they work.

“Many times, people live in South Dallas, but they work in North Dallas, Plano, or Frisco. They are making an 80-mile round trip to low wage jobs with no benefits. There is no doubt that all work is honorable. You have people that work as clerks and cashiers, and housekeepers. At the end of the month, they barely have enough money to pay rent, put food on the table and pay for transportation to and from
work .”

As a community advocate, District 8 Planning and Zoning Commissioner Lorie Blair is also focusing her efforts to make sure that decades of injustices in housing don’t continue to plague residents of South Dallas.

“It infuriated me that as we celebrate Juneteenth, the city is still wishing to be segregated and prey upon those that have little or nothing,” said Blair. “One of the developers suggested that in order to get past the rule that states a single family and multifamily dwelling must have a buffer, he will get permission to build a lot next to a single-family home with the promise of building an 8-foot fence.”

Blair realized that just having an 8-foot fence as a barrier between a multifamily dwelling and a single-family home could present some potential problems. She also questioned if this solution would be acceptable in other areas of Dallas.

Blair said she doesn’t want unsuitable work arounds to impact those in her community. She is aggressively working to make sure that living conditions are improved and that affordable housing is not just affordable but also attainable.

Both Blair and Baker say they are committed to making sure that affordable housing means freedom to those in the minority community that have had to historically deal with various inequalities in housing in the Southern Sector of Dallas.

“I just want to know, when is the city going to stop and say the minority communities are worthy to have the same dignity and respect as every other community.,” added Blair. “Just because they don’t have the finances doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to live in circumstances that are comparable to the least of other communities.

“They are entitled to live comfortably and with dignity like everyone else. I don’t care who you are as a minority, everyone is entitled to live with some sort of dignity.”

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