Check out part one at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/
latestnews/stories/061007dnentapt_overview.2e85b2c8.html. You can find the second part on the paper's website today.
The challenge of providing adequate housing stock for the expanding population of a growing urban community like Dallas is enormous and requires a courageous public commitment to be successful. Political will, creative leadership, various, often complicated funding tools and the willingness to do the right thing for the entire community, no matter what the political consequences, are all essential ingredients to any successful housing strategy.
Our experience here at CDM in attempting to develop affordable units to meet part of the growing need has been very instructive. Here a just a few of the lessons we've learned over the past six years:
- Deals take too long--one of our largest, mixed use, mixed income projects that we are planning to build in East Dallas has been underway for over 5 years! The frustrations have been incredible and daily. Only non-profit developers like us will have the patience to stay with deals like this one, and the jury is still out on whether or not we will actually close into construction.
- Every project is enormously complicated from a financial standpoint. Layer upon layer of financing of various kinds are involved in all of our projects. Pre-development funds are scarce. Interim financing is complicated and permanent financing at the conclusion of projects is never easy or certain.
- Public involvement, usually essential for any successful project, is almost always a struggle to acquire and requires lots and lots of patience and determination. If and when it arrives, it is generally too little to assure a deal's success.
- Timing presents many challenges. Acquiring and holding property is difficult for non-profit developers in areas where for-profit companies just don't want to work due to the number of challenges that are not present in easier-to-develop, suburban areas. Marketing and property management services that are necessary to lease up projects and operate them in a high quality manner also add costs to projects that often come to market on razor thin profit margins.
Just recounting a few of the most common hurdles we face in attempting to bring high-quality, affordable housing to our market makes me wonder why we stay at it!
Of course the answer is people, our neighbors. The report makes it clear that the economy of the entire community depends upon the continued and increased development of housing stock for our growing workforce.
A couple of important facts surfaced in the first part of the housing report. Both are extremely troubling.
First, 42% of Dallas households are "cost-burdened,' that is they pay over 30% of their income on housing costs. That's an amazing number, especially in a city that is tearing down thousands of affordable units and replacing them with upscale, expensive homes, condos and luxury apartment developments.
Second, the current trend lines for median income and home values are not good news. Median income here in Dallas in 1990 was $27,469 with the median cost of a home at $78,300. By 2000, income rose to $37,628 and home values were up to $94,456. In 2005, median income actually slipped to $36,403 while home costs continued to rise to $120,900.
For things to change in Dallas, and especially in our inner city neighborhoods, free market forces must be supported by public plans and policies that make new development possible and feasible. At the same time, affordable housing units need to be built all across the community so that low-income persons do not continue to be segregated in the Southern Sector of the city.
Tom Leppert or Ed Oakley will be elected as our new mayor next Saturday. I hope they are reading these reports and paying attention. To be really relevant and effective our next mayor will need an aggressive plan to challenge our current very negative situation and to overcome it with bright new designs for our next generation as a city.