Even if developers in Dallas build more housing units, the region’s low-income housing crisis will remain until more landlords accept housing vouchers.
In Texas, landlords can’t be forced to accept vouchers from low-income residents. A recent report by the Child Poverty Action Lab also cited “over 60 distinct barriers or tensions” to low-income housing, including bureaucratic processes, misconceptions about voucher holders and other operational or financial challenges.
Just 7% of surveyed apartment complexes in four North Texas counties reported accepting vouchers in 2020, according to the nonprofit Inclusive Communities Project. Only 5% of the apartment complexes in majority white ZIP codes accepted housing vouchers, and about a fifth of the North Texas apartment complexes that did were concentrated in majority Black ZIP codes.
In addition to this imbalance, landlords in most Dallas neighborhoods are charging monthly market rents that far exceed what a voucher will cover, according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development data. And the Dallas Housing Authority has experienced an 97% increase in per-unit cost, the second-highest such increase of all housing authorities nationwide in the past five years.
Dallas City Hall is revising its land use policies and has made affordable housing a priority, but it has yet to compile a plan to increase affordable housing stock.
The Child Poverty Action Lab is right to draw attention to the problem and to recommend that the city redouble efforts to encourage investors and property owners to accept vouchers and include support for voucher holders. The group also recommends help for mom-and-pop investors and landlords to navigate federal requirements, and new city incentives for property developers to provide additional low-income units within their projects. Other ideas include new incentives for nonprofits to sign master lease agreements with landlords and then sublease to voucher holders.
Groups such as the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, Dallas Housing Authority, nonprofits, the real estate community and the city continue to push toward a sustainable strategy to increase housing units and allow low-income residents the opportunity to rent a place that they can afford.
Studies show that incentives work. Marin County in Northern California, which is among the most expensive places to rent in the nation, offers a case study. Marin County operates programs that offer security deposits, damage protection, vacancy loss coverage and a customer service hotline and workshops for landlords participating in voucher programs, and it has seen some success at chipping away at this major problem. Granted, no two cities face the same land acquisition costs, infrastructure needs and zoning issues, but this approach could have merit here.
Dallas must adjustas market dynamics impact affordable housing. It can do so by linking housing policies to neighborhood rejuvenation, infrastructure improvements and economic revitalization. To do otherwise makes a bad situation worse.
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