Friday, February 20, 2009

More housing for the homeless--likely a round we lose

You can have a look at the current status of our plans to upgrade and renovate the old Plaza Inn at I-30 and S. Akard here in Downtown Dallas on last night's Channel 11 CBS TV.

From the start we knew that without neighborhood support the plan would not be possible due to the scoring rules imposed by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in Austin on the one hand, and the local political reality on the other.

As it turns out, our application received the highest score in the entire state for this round of low-income housing tax credit funding. So, we might have gotten the deal funded without neighborhood backing, had that been our attitude and style.

Then, there is the question of what constitutes "the neighborhood" and "the neighbors" in this case. I'm not at all sure that the Cedars Neighborhood Association (powered by an "overwhelming" 54 total votes in the poll to determine the fate of our deal--we received 15 favorable votes) is very representative of the community in question. Hundreds of people live and work in the area.

Several hundred of our neighbors call the Dallas Life Foundation emergency shelter home every night. Wonder how they would vote on the plan to create homes for those who don't have them? Or, how about those who walk the streets of the Cedars area daily and nightly? I wonder about the hundreds of police officers who work at the new Dallas Police Headquarters building. How would they feel about an upgrade for the old Plaza Inn, now shut down by its owners and soon to be boarded up?

We are of the opinion that the state rule ought to be changed in regard to the weight given community responses to solid real estate plans, especially those benefitting very low income homeless persons. And, frankly, I should have done a better job thinking this all through before we started. Like most deal opportunities of this nature, there just wasn't enough time to cover all the bases. We never had the intention of ramming something through, though some charged us of employing such tactics.

Then, there is the political reality. Without the supportive vote of Council Member Pauline Medrano, we will not get the City Council approval we need next Wednesday when our leaders take up the issue.

I continue to wish that we could find a way, acceptable to all parties, to get just one more month for conversation with the neighborhood.

If we could get a positive vote on Wednesday, February 25 from the City Council, the Cedars Neighborhood Association could send their letter of opposition to the TDHCA. We would continue to negotiate in good faith until the next and final council vote on the matter on March 25. If we couldn't convince the community to support us by then, we would commit to withdraw our proposal and go away. If we did convince the Cedars' group, they could withdraw their letter of opposition and we could all go forward together to improve the neighborhood.

Nothing lost in this approach but one month, and $10,000 in contract costs on our part and lots of additional effort. Those are losses we are willing to incur.

The way it looks today, everyone loses:

. . .the city that needs 700 new units of permanent supportive housing according to its recently approved plan will turn down the first viable project since their vote to go forward with this new housing commitment less than a month ago. . .

. . .the homeless who need a place to call home. . .

. . .the Cedars community that needs to see the old hotel re-done before it deteriorates even further. . .

. . .and Central Dallas Community Development Corporation. We just want to see the heart of Dallas changed for everyone who works and lives there, including the extremely poor.

I wish I could hear some positive vibes from Cedars' folk.

It is not too late, but you are in control.



Anonymous said...

The citizens of Dallas, especially South Dallas and Cedars neighborhood can voice their opinion on this directly to the Mayor and all council members from this link.
Email them today

Anonymous said...

NIMBY'ism is alive and well! Even in neighborhoods which would BENEFIT from the proposed action. It amazes me the Cedars does not want to help solve the problems that already afflict its own neighborhood.

I wish somone from the Cedars would explain this intitially mistifying opposition.

Anonymous said...

Larry James should build a new low income housing complex next to his $300K home. This would be fair.

Anonymous said...

The difference between you and Larry is that he would if he could because he has a heart.

Aaron Jones said...

Well Larry is this true do you live in 300k home tell me the truth.

Larry it seems that you want the rules to change to benefit you and your organization, but Ive read on Dallasarena where this is a Hamilton property a major developer in DTD the value from DCAD is 2 million, but the city was going to pay 4.5 million.

Another bailout for a developer who got greedy and thought that gas and real estate were going to stay high.

Is this a scheme Larry tell me how you and Hamilton came together for him to try and turn a profit on the taxpayer dime. I thought I could give you the benefit of the doubt, but that's gone.

What I said in my last post is true you and Mike(czar)have an alliance with DTD property owners to try and move as many homeless out of DTD as you can on the taxpayers dime.

Then if the taxpayers don't agree you call them names and say they don't care or they are NIMBY or I love this one how can they call themselves Christians. When the reality is there just hard working people who want to keep there neighborhood how they like it.

Whats wrong with people having to work in this society today working is a four letter word nobody wants to work hard for anything they always make excuses you see it not only with the homeless but throughout society.

Oh and Pauline Medrano is listening to the CNA because she has to they are angry at here for letting that name plating company extend their stay she knows that if she disappoints whenever she runs again she probably won't be voted back in.

Oh and Larry don't forget the mmd's that will fill Dallas in five years the first three are only the beginning. You should look into them.

Here is the link to the Dallasarena story

Anonymous said...

It would be good for many of the service industry folks who work downtown to have an opportunity to live downtown. That includes those who will be working at the Convention Center hotel they are planning to build. It is wrong to assume those folks would be bad neighbors and to deny them the opportunity to have affordable housing.

Larry James said...

I'm not sure I even can discern what Aaron is talking about. But, I will try to respond to some of the posts.

First of all, the City of Dallas was not paying anyone anything for the purchase of the property in question. The Central Dallas CDC had it under contract with no city funds involved. Our plan was to renovate the building for mixed income housing using a combination of low income housing tax credit funds, conventional loans and some philanthropic funds. A subsidy for the refurbishing would have come from the city in exchange for the dvelopment of 50 units that would be used for Permanent Supportive Housing of the formerly homeless. This is how these efforts are done all over the nation.

The Hamiltons have no city money in the building, nor have they asked the city to buy the building. They are first rate developers who are helping renew Downtown and who also care about the homeless who need homes and about economic development in general in the central business district.

All of the conspiracy theories about the city's efforts with our homeless friends don't deserve a response. Our leaders working in that space are doing great work and are getting better at it.

Now about my home. Brenda and I moved from Richardson where we had lived for 19 years. We sold our home there and put the equity into what was at the time a 77-year-old, two-story frame house. It had been on the verge of being condemned and had been partially redone prior to our move in. Still, it was pretty much a wreck! One of our first big projects involved replacing the ceiling in the living room and a floor above it upstairs! You should have been there. Ask my wife and my friends who almost all thought we had lost our minds by moving into this house and this neighborhood. We paid far, far, far less than the comment above suggests--got a bargain, really. I only regret that we didn't move 4-5years earlier when prices were even lower, but our youngest daughter was a senior in high school and we just weren't ready to make the move.

We have worked on the house and made many improvements and it is worth much more today as a result of what we have invested in it and as a result of rising home evaluations in our neighborhood in East Dallas. Our neighborhood has changed a lot for the better, largely because people have moved in and redone old houses like ours. The rebound has led to some gentrification that is troublesome because it has forced some low-income persons out of the area, especially as multi-family units are remodeled, improved or torn down.

My block is still very mixed. Next door we have a similar house with a garage apt that has various tenants. Just down the street toward Fitzhugh is an old apartment complex--multi-family; old, but cool. At the other end of the street are very troubled apartments, pre-WWII, tiny bugalows and lots of run down single family homes. Last year Dallas PD conducted a "sting" on the home at the end of our block after several of us reported the acttivity. It is an urban neighborhood. It is very mixed in every way. I love it!

Frankly, I would welcome into my neighborhood the kind of quality housing we had in mind for the project referenced here for some of the poorest people in Dallas. I would certainly welcome the people who might live there. Folks without homes roam my neighborhood on a daily basis, dig through my trash and recycle cans looking for salvage. They come to my door because they know where I live and we get along just fine. I've got a million stories, but I can tell you the poor get a bad rap in terms of how lots of people view them in Dallas. I think we can do better and I'm trying to work to see the situation improve for all of us.

As to name calling, I don't remember doing that. If I did, I'll apologize to whomever I may have offended. I do become passionate about this subject. I have described the reality of NIMBYism, which is a fact of life in Dallas.

As to the value of work, I certainly agree. We work with thousands of low-income persons, many of them homeless. We offer employment training and counseling. We have a 13-week construction trades class underway right now. In working with low-income people we have found that the % of people who are lazy and unwilling to work is spread at about the same depth across the entire socio-economic continuum. Most of the homeless persons we house are disabled. Some battle addiction. Others, work. Some, like a friend in my neighborhood, keep the cans picked up off the streets.

But, then, most of your reactons, Aaron, simply reflect a lack of personal acquaintance with anyone who is poor or homeless.

Frankly, I am amazed that this post proved so upsetting to so many people. When I wrote it, I was not angry nor did I intend to be insulting. I was making one last call for more study in hopes that something really good might come from more study, negotiation and work. Obviously, my assumptions were wrong to many people.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Larry, I share your astonishment at how much negative response your post received. The whole subject obviously touches several exposed nerves.

I noticed: no one actually undertook to explain the opposition; apparently hard work should be rewarded unless it's your hard work (you obviously don't deserve a nice house); and as usual, if you don't like something, there must be a vast conspiracy at work.

I really do not know how you maintain such calm in responding to stuff like this.

Aaron Jones said...

So Larry are you calling Laura Dixon the person who wrote the article a liar she was at the meeting or is this a case of selective truth.

This is her article what reasons would she have to be untruthful.

You know what I think Larry I think you want what you want regardless of people disagreeing with you. You always spin question by saying this is best for Dallas, but there is no proof. And don't bring up other cities what works for one doesn't always work for the other.

It's just like this Convention Hotel Leppert wants to build Downtown there is nothing to do Downtown unless you are wealthy (Arts District) or poor (the bridge). Why not fix up Fair Park that is the Golden Goose that Dallas continues to ignore.

You know what Larry I'll give you a free idea support small businesses. Since you guys in your words buy buildings and want to refurbish them for low income or homeless you should buy suburban style retail buildings fix them up
(revisions dallas style)and put small businesses in and have that as a job training center.

I never understood why you and Mike(czar) never pushed that from the City Council. You would have had more support if taxpayers saw that there money wasn't being wasted, but was being invested in a job training/support center that said the people that benefit from the taxpayers would be required to volunteer or work and give back to the citizens of Dallas.

A lot of people on this blog don't think that. They think the taxpayer should be happy working 2 or 3 jobs and subsidizing people while having to provide for their own families.

That's my problem with the whole homeless situation neither you or mike seem to look at it from the working person perspective.

Money is tight not just this year but has been for a while for families but yet people like Leppert think that this recession or whatever people call it will be over by this year keep dreaming.

Another thing about the pro-hotel
people is that they don't think about the negatives effects not just to the taxpayers, but also to the people working at those hotels.

You want hear them say that taking business away from hotels could put people out of jobs. Dallas is over saturated already and I haven't even mentioned the other competition in cities around DFW and North Texas.

Check out what MUDs have done to Austin the same fate lies with Dallas mmd. Oh and Larry would you ever speak out against Leppert or do you love the gravy train.

Anonymous said...

From this day forward I will always associate the name Aaron Jones with the word moron.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Aaron, ever heard of punctuation?

rcorum said...

I am not familiar enough with Dallas to comment with any intelligence. I wish both sides could take a lesson or two from Larry. He seems to answer all comers, and I don't think he has ever call a person a moron or questioned their grammar.

john chapman said...

Channel 11, more than the other local TV stations, seems interested in what happens to homeless people.

The piece by Doug Dunbar, Tracy Kornet, and Bud Gillett of Channel 11 was very well done.

Tracy Kornet expained that, "A $30M renovation could be scrapped unless backers can convince neighborhood groups that residents at the facility won't pose a threat."

Dallas Councilwoman Pauline Madrano seemed less than enthusiastic when she explained, "If the neighborhood is not in agreement then the project would not go forward,"

After the negative reactions by the Cedars Homeowners Association and Buzz Condominiums, in an effort to present something
positive, Bud Gillett interviewed Tiera Hampton who explained, "I don't have anything against it."

Even though Larry James’ plan may not at first succeed, it may be beneficial to know who the friends of homeless people are.