The federal government is nothing more than a big bully, according to several hundred outraged Lake Highlands residents who recently heard City Councilman Donna Halstead tell them to get ready for new subsidized housing in the community.
Better face facts, Halstead explained to the crowd at Lake Highlands Recreation Center. Three area housing complexes are on the Resolution Trust Corp.’s list of properties up for sale, with a mandatory 35 percent of the units designated for the elderly and low-and moderate-income families.
Halstead suggested that neighborhood residents back the newly formed Dallas Multifamily Housing Acquisition Corp. in its effort to buy the properties or watch the federally funded Dallas Housing Authority grab them.
Halstead labeled DHA’s record as a landlord in the area as “abysmal” and asked residents to support the City’s fledgling housing agency in what may become a bureaucracy-vs.-bureaucracy batlle to acquire property.
But residents seemed just as angry about the perceived negative impact subsidized housing has on local schools. They talked about “special needs” children who would further tax the resources of elementary schools already operating at capacity and their distrust for people who live in subsidized housing.
District 10, which includes Lake Highlands, is 27 percent minority. Few minority residents were evident in the audience at the town hall meeting.
“There’s a world of difference between working-class people and people who live under subsidies,” said resident Jo’anna Snowden.
“My kids go to school with kids who live in Section 8 housing. They put a tremendous strain on our system.”
Two of the apartment complexes under consideration feed Skyview Elementary School. They are Deerfield (with 257 units), at 9670 Forest Lane, west of Audelia Road; and Wellington Place (164 units), 9940 Forest, east of Audelia. Halstead expects the RTC to drop a third property, Summer Glen, 9622 Rolling Rock, because of its poor condition.
Skyview Elementary principal John Calney approaches the subject cautiously.
“I’d anticipated it (subsidized housing) coming into this area,” he says. “Whether they (students) are or are not (residents of subsidized housing), it doesn’t have any influence on me.
“Any kid who walks through our doors is going to get a fair and equitable education.”
Halstead says five percent of the housing in Lake Highlands is federally subsidized, matching Dallas’ overall rate.
“We already have our fair share,” she says.
That data provides the basis for one of five amendments she has proposed for the Multifamily Housing Acquisition Corp. charter.
By purchasing the properties, Halstead says, the City can help meet requirements to provide services to low-income families imposed by the recent Walker Consent Decree.
Assistant city manager Ted Benavides, who attended the public meeting, said the City intends to earn revenue from the properties and may try to sell them in two or three years. The requirement for subsidized units, however, will remain with each property for 50 years.
Clearly, Halstead says, the City is the lesser of two evils, adding that Lake Highlands should try to minimize the DHA’s presence in Lake Highlands.
At one local DHA property, Audelia Manor, the agency has moved “people recovering from addictions” into a complex meant for elderly and handicapped residents, Halstead says.
“The idea of DHA becoming a landholder in this community is anathema to me,” she says.
DHA director Alphonso Jackson and deputy executive director Lori Henderson failed to return several calls from the Advocate, seeking their response.
The RTC must still decide whether the Dallas Multifamily Housing Acquisition Corp. qualifies to purchase the properties, and then the City must provide a one percent cash down-payment. Halstead expects some sort of ruling by December.
However, she says, the RTC probably will release more properties for sale with the subsidized housing requirement.
“This is Round One, folks,” she said at the town hall meeting. “There’s probably going to be another round after this.”