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As one delves into understanding the diverse aspects of residential techniques and zoning practices, it does not take long to uncover the harsh realities and inconsistencies of affordable housing. Many policies have been put in place in recent years aiming to strengthen the housing market but fall short on creating more affordable housing throughout the United States and especially in Dallas, TX. This paper will document the history of affordable housing practices and focus on the rise in rental prices and the rise in home buying prices within Dallas. Finally, this paper aims to address policies and study how the United States and Dallas are creating more affordable housing options. For the purpose of paper affordable housing will be defined as: A residence where housing costs exceed 30 percent of the total household income (Linneman & Megbolugbe 1992).
One of the most basic components everyone deserves in the simplest terms is shelter; either a single-family residence, a multi-family duplex, or a mixed-use apartment complex. Policymakers, planners, and economists have long been challenged with finding solutions to provide adequate housing that meets the needs of current and future residents. For example, Homer Hoyt, an economist during the 1930s, studied housing characteristics and identified patterns pertaining to many urban housing markets and introduced terms such as vacancy chains and filtering (Kaplan & Holloway, 2014). As the housing United States housing market continued to grow, one major contributor in widening the increasing disparity in affordable housing was the Housing Act of 1949, the American version of urban renewal. Introduced by President Truman, it aimed to revitalize areas such as slums populating many inner cities and one of the initial goals was to eliminate substandard housing to in return create good housing (Levy, 2017). During the mid-1900’s American cities hindered by uneconomical, dying inner cities, introduced their own urban renewal projects to act as an awakening to the economy and reshape residential and commercial environments (Levy, 2017). This paired with more zoning regulations in the suburbs, new residents or those recently displaced by these “policies” were restricted and faced with exclusionary zoning in multiple new towns (O’Flaherty, 2005). Though the program is no longer in place, effects of urban renewal projects can be seen today in city demographics or old practices of redlining.
Throughout this period of urban renewal and new policies, New Jersey’s case: Southern Burlington County, NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel in 1975 showed an example of those facing exclusionary zoning taking a stance and fighting back. Mount Laurel’s new ordinance applied regulations to only allow single-family homes on the residential zones excluding apartments, townhomes, and any other multi-family usage currently or in the future. Many minorities, mostly African Americans, in the community felt the regulations, which would force them to relocate elsewhere outside the jurisdiction of Mount Laurel were targeted towards them. The plaintiffs seeking adequate housing opportunities claimed exclusionary zoning and voiced their reasoning for the town to provide affordable housing options for low- and moderate-income families (Southern Burlington County, NAACP v. Township of Mount Laurel). Ultimately, it was held that the town should provide affordable housing options and that cities should only zone with the intentions “for the welfare of people and not for the benefit of the local tax rate (American Bar Association Journal (1975).” This has led to inclusionary zoning policies, where developers must allocate a certain percentage of units to receive a below market rate cost (Schneider, 2018). The state of Texas currently has a law in place, Texas Local Government Code § 214.905, regarding inclusionary zoning not being mandatory, however the latter half states a municipality can:
Dallas is familiar with this and even has locations where voluntary inclusionary zoning is available. But how is the city taking advantage of this legislature and using its resources to tackle affordable housing as it continues to grow?
You cannot mention housing without first looking at factors such as population and employment growth. Ranked the third largest city in Texas, Dallas is one of the busiest metroplexes in the United States. As the city continues to grow (Lamm, 2019), so does the disparity those who need affordable housing and the availability of affordable housing. forwardDallas!, the city’s comprehensive plan adopted in 2006, states one necessary component is providing a regional balance of affordable housing (forwardDallas!, 2006). After the nationwide housing market crashed in 2008, the result in Dallas was a fast-growing economy (Nagorka, 2019). Graph 1 shows thousands of jobs were added to the job market during the years 2014 to 2017.
Unfortunately, in return Dallas created a “lopsided market that isn’t producing enough lower-cost places to live (Nagorka, 2019).” while numerous jobs are available. Although the housing market it not the worst in the nation, the amount of affordable housing available has decreased in many parts of Dallas, especially south Dallas. Land is being redeveloped and repurposed, or as some refer to it as gentrification, in areas such as the Bishops Arts District. With the intention to create walkable and more dense locations, these new developments are pushing out homeowners in these communities. As the price of housing increases the “buy-outs” are more than the house it worth, but not always enough to relocate and live in the manner one has for decades. Also, as cities, such as Dallas became more modern and advanced in residential design and planning, there becomes “a disproportionate concentration of poor households in the central city and older inner-ring suburbs where deterioration and obsolescence have reduced the quality of older housing (Downs, 1997).”
Keep in mind, Dallas’ strong and growing economy is not the only factor affecting affordable housing options. Our real estate market is attractive to investors from out of state. According to the latest census data, many of our residents continue to move from California (Calvey & San Francisco Business Chronicle, 2019). Having a higher cost of living, moving south is a viable, economical option for many people choosing to live in Texas. Developers know they can offer higher prices to those coming from other markets who are willing to pay the above average price, thus pushing home values up. International developers are another factor. Many international developers have been eyeing Texas, and mostly Dallas over other cities due to the cheap and abundant land. However, these developers are entering Dallas and paying cash for properties unanimously winning bid wars between home seekers who are being turned away from properties they can only afford through financing. Investors and developers holding a strong influence over our housing market are essentially “ … affecting the affordability and availability of housing, as demand outpaces supply and bidding wars ensue (Searcey & Bradsher, 2015).” Graph 2 shows the steady increase in home values between 2014-2017 in Dallas. (Zillow, 2019).
HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, offers much assistance, and many residents qualify for housing vouchers given through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. These vouchers are given to qualifying low-income residents, who receive assistance from the government to live in an apartment or house at a below market price. However, not all places accept vouchers, or have recently stopped, and the process for receiving the voucher can take months. In some cases, voluntary inclusionary zoning, is applied where some developments offer prices at a lower rate for some tenants and in return receive incentives or a subsidy from the government. A report from Opportunity Dallas states, “[W]e have never had a clear, predictable package of incentives for developers, so they know exactly what is on the table (Guinto, 2018),” justifying why so few developers have chosen to participate and inclusionary zoning opportunities are lacking in Dallas. Paired with the rising rental prices, Graph 3, many residents are finding it harder and harder to find affordable housing.
But is Dallas really solving the problem when most houses added are for middle-income to high-income residents and multifamily options are scarce and expensive? Aware of growing concerns, a few measures have been discussed as being methods to combat disproportions and increase affordable housing options. The Dallas Housing Authority is looking towards using private investors to revitalize scattered properties throughout the metroplex. Allowing public-private partnerships to develop into strong assets for both parties will give traction to the concept of adding more affordable housing throughout the city (Allen, 2019). Also, Dallas has recently implemented changes to the Development Code and City Code giving additional incentives to residential projects who agree to include some income restricted units. In return Dallas aims to create communities of various income classes.
City officials in Dallas know the task set ahead of them in this fast-paced economy. There will be winners and losers in all aspects. Reconstructing and improving existing affordable housing will take serious implementation of laws and actual support from governmental entities. A radical approach may be the answer to revitalizing areas in Dallas, not a substandard approach (Porter, 1997). The challenge will be to get serious investors and community leaders to provide a solution that works best for Dallas accommodate the growing need for more affordable housing. Bringing external components such as DART and DISD into the conversation will “provide a much more comprehensive approach to the redevelopment strategies of neighborhoods (Allen, 2019).” Dallas, moving forward united can take this challenge on.
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