One result of the recent collapse in real estate values (whether we’re emerging from that predicament is another story) is that local apartment complexes are floating in a regular bowl of alphabet soup.
See if you can follow this twisted trail of acronyms: The Resolution Trust Corp. (RTC) acquired several apartment complexes, including Deerfield and Wellington Place in Lake Highlands, from insolvent owners.
The RTC then announced it would sell the properties to buyers who would rent at least 35 percent of the units to low- and middle-income families.
The City of Dallas, under the terms of the Walker Consent Decree, is required to provide such housing, but so is the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA).
Unwilling to let the DHA grab all the properties offered by the RTC, the City formed the Dallas Multifamily Housing Acquisition Corp. (DMHAC) and submitted bids for five properties. Lake Highlands’ Council representative, Donna Halstead, endorsed the DMHAC’s efforts because of the DHA’s poor record in the community.
Officials of the DMHAC believed they’d made a deal with the DHA not to compete for the same complexes. But the DHA recently bid for and won those properties – and then revealed its intention to turn three over to a Washington, D.C., based non-profit company called the National Housing Partnership (NHP).
Throw in the recent sale by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) of the troubled Brookshire North Apartments at Audelia and Kingsley Roads to a California investment group, and you’ve got a housing picture that’s difficult for anyone to follow.
In the past, homeowners have blamed the residents of apartment complexes for much of the crime and school instability in Lake Highlands. When the RTC announced plans for new subsidized housing here last fall, homeowners who gathered at Halstead’s town hall meeting were furious.
But Halstead stepped in to caution her constituents that Lake Highlands must accept its fair share of such housing. We’d better learn to live with each other, she said.
As a result, Lake Highlands has been surprisingly free of formally organized anti-apartment groups. Instead, some people are working to bring the two constituencies – homeowners and apartment residents – together.
Michael Miles of the Village West Neighborhood Association in the Kingsley-Audelia area is one such person.
Miles first became involved in the apartment issue because neighbors were concerned about zoning at the nearby Audelia Heights complex. One portion of the complex was zoned commercial, and Miles (who works for DART, which is relevant here only as one more acronym) successfully approached the owners to ask that they maintain residential use of the property.
While pursuing that objective, the homeowners began a dialogue with apartment residents. The groups discovered a similar interest in making their community a safe place to live.
When Miles and a few others from the neighborhood visited an Audelia Heights Crime Watch meeting, he says, “there was a lot of eyeballing going on, both sides watching each other. But we had a common goal in that all of our kids go to the same schools. We believe that if you can stabilize (transition in) the apartments and get a tenant base you know is going to be there, it all works out.
“There was never a mechanism for the people across the alley to talk to each other,” Miles says. “We sought them out and got a dialogue going, and now a number of us attend their Crime Watch meetings on a regular basis.”
Deputy Chief Manuel Vasquez of the Dallas Police Department’s Northeast Bureau says homeowners are generally mistaken when they blame apartment renters for most crime in the community.
“Homeowners may feel the concentration of people in the apartments can cause crime, but that’s not the case,” he says. “It’s the same fear you have between people who live in the suburbs and people who live in the big city. But I don’t think you can blame crime trends on that one aspect (population density).”
Still, Miles recognizes that most area apartment complexes are unsuited for their tenant base. And that’s generally not the fault of the complexes’ owners, either.
“The properties were built as adults-only apartments (no longer acceptable under federal law). They have minimal facilities for families, and no green spaces that would be conducive for kids,” he says.
Miles attempted to interest the YMCA in the Brookshire North apartments as a possible site for a much-needed Lake Highlands branch, but that hope died when HUD sold the property.
“We need to figure out how we’re going to get neighborhood services into the apartments,” Miles says. “The apartments are not going to be removed, no matter what some people want. If we think about it, we can find some logic on how we can all work together.”
The Council View
Halstead is similarly pragmatic on the apartment issue, although she recognizes that she primarily must please the homeowners who elected her.
“One of our huge problems in Lake Highlands is that we have apartment complexes that are not properly managed or maintained,” Halstead says.
“It is critical that we find some means of making certain that apartment owners are going to be good neighbors. And we’ve made some significant progress.”
Halstead is encouraged by improved relations between homeowners and residents of the Audelia Heights apartments, and she’s heard no complaints about the Audelia Manor apartments since talking to the DHA three months ago. Senior citizens at the property had complained when the agency moved in recovering drug addicts, Halstead says.
Although upset that the DHA acted as a broker during the RTC auction of apartment properties for the National Housing Partnership – Halstead says the DHA received a $565,000 commission for “flipping” the properties – she says she has heard no negative comments about the NHP’s management of the Northwest Terrace and North Lake Terrace apartments at Kingsley and Plano roads.
And as for Brookshire North, site of a Jan. 24 firebombing by the Rollin’ 30 Crips gang against residents who testified in court against other gang members, Halstead promises to watch the new owners carefully.
Bell Financial Group, based in Burbank, Calif., bought Brookshire North from HUD for $1.4 million.
Halstead has written to Bell Financial, “letting them know we are a very active community. We can either be their best friend or their worst enemy. It’s up to them,” she says.
“If they think they are going to walk in here, bleeding that property and impacting our neighborhoods, they’re not going to get away with it.”