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East Dallas is a patchwork of the haves and the have-nots. Some are comfortable with public schools, and others drive great distances for private schools. McMansions, neo-modern and historic homes mix with apartments, some high-end and others low-income.

This past May, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved its first comprehensive housing policy, which could increase affordable housing throughout the city and, ultimately, better integrate Dallas. The policy hopes to address residential income gaps by providing new and stable housing, assisting property owners and establishing mixed income communities.

This civic action is an attempt to reverse federal practices dating back to the ’30s, which reinforced the residential segregation that exists to this day.

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“People like to think that segregation just sort of happened,” says Miguel Solis, a Dallas Independent School District trustee who chaired a task force on housing policy that made recommendations to the city. “Segregation was manufactured by people, and particularly by policymakers, for racist reasons.”

In the wake of the 1929 Great Depression, the federal government rolled out all kinds of New Deal policies and agencies to try to prevent such a financial crisis from happening again. One was the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), which introduced the practice of appraising homes for mortgage loans. As part of this, HOLC recruited loan officers, developers and real estate professionals in nearly 250 cities, including Dallas, to color-code neighborhoods’ credit worthiness and risk.

These “residential security” maps were then used by the Federal Housing Administration, HOLC’s successor agency, to determine which residents were “safe” bets for banks and lenders. The better a neighborhood’s rating, the more likely its potential homeowners could acquire a mortgage loan.

The HOLC recruits looked at everything from terrain to public amenities to determine ratings. But as one former FHA appraiser told writer Ta-Nehisi Coates for his June 2014 Atlantic story, “The Case for Reparations,” the top ratings were reserved for areas without “a single foreigner or Negro.”

Neighborhoods with people of color almost always were colored red, or “hazardous” for lenders.

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“Segregation was manufactured by people, and particularly by policymakers, for racist reasons.”

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Real estate appraisers used the apparent racial and cultural value of a community to determine its economic value,” according to the “Mapping Inequality” project from the University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab. It was nearly impossible for these residents to acquire a home loan, making it more difficult for communities of color to accumulate generational wealth.

The practice of “redlining,” as it became known, officially was outlawed in the late 1960s. But U.S. Census reports from 2009 — four decades later — showed that typical black and Hispanic households had just 6 and 8 percent, respectively, of the median wealth of typical white households.

Dallas was no exception. Our modern demographics, from property values to school performance, reflect HOLC’s 1937 residential security map of Dallas, demonstrating the lasting impact of these policies.

Parts of Old East Dallas and the Baylor area were redlined, according to the HOLC maps. What is now Lakewood, the M Streets and Wilshire Heights were rated “best,” while areas to the south were designated “still desirable.” Moving further south and east toward Downtown, the Mount Auburn area was rated “declining.”

Swiss Avenue, according to the 1937 redlining map, is a “best” spot in a sea of “declining” East Dallas properties. The historic district’s old housing deeds still read, “This lot shall be used for residential purposes only and by white persons only,” NBC 5 reported in 2010.  Race restrictive covenants like this are unconstitutional and unenforceable today, but their presence reveals the intentions of early developers.

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When today’s demographics are measured against those redlining maps from nearly 80 years ago, there are similar patterns. The areas that the FHA considered “hazardous” are still the areas that have the highest levels of poverty, the largest concentrations of minorities and the lowest property values.

“Everything that comes with a hyper-concentration of poverty, such as healthcare and education, created a set of compounding generational effects that many still live with today,” Solis says.

Segregation still exists in East Dallas. Gentrification means that lower income communities are priced out of areas where they have lived and sent their children to school for generations. In the Mount Auburn neighborhood, where homes historically have been passed to family members or sold for less than $300,000, developers are purchasing lots and building modern homes priced over $600,000.

Opportunity Dallas launched last year with a mission to “promote greater economic mobility and prosperity by tackling concentrated poverty and segregation.” The organization created a task force to analyze housing policies in Dallas and make recommendations to the city.

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“The future is mixed income. But it requires diligence and not losing political will.”

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One of the task force’s goals was to establish a policy to enhance housing for low-income households and break the cycle of generational poverty.

The task force included representatives from real estate, nonprofits, government, neighbors and developers.

“We had folks who were focused on the bottom line and Section 8 voucher holders in the same room talking about this issue,” Solis says.

The city responded by adopting many of the task force’s recommendations. The goal is to build 20,000 new affordable homes and encourage home ownership, protection against gentrification and redevelopment throughout the city. In theory, the new policies could help neighbors in areas such as Mount Auburn. They would be able to purchase their homes and stay put.

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Jack Matthews, whose firm Matthews Southwest built the Omni Dallas Hotel, is one of the developers promoting mixed-income housing in Dallas. He is working on a 16-story residential tower near the old Dallas High School downtown. Nearly half of the units are for residents earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. The Dallas Morning News reports that the plan is financed with low-income housing tax credits, tax increment finance district funds and debt.

The city’s new policies are pushing for this sort of development, providing tax credits, a city housing trust fund and other incentives to developers.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]City Councilman Philip Kingston sees East Dallas as a place where these sorts of developments could have an impact. He points out the Lakewood Shopping Center and Columbia Avenue areas as potential locations for intentional mixed-income developments.

“The future is mixed income,” he says, “but it requires diligence and not losing political will. No set of rules is so good that it will keep people from doing bad things that they are determined to do.”

Solis is hopeful that the housing policy will have an impact in a variety of areas, including schools. He has seen the desire for many parents who are choosing Dallas ISD to put their children at schools that are ensured to be diverse, such as SOLAR Preparatory School for Girls in East Dallas. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#ea0202″][vc_column_text]

A STEP IN A NEW DIRECTION

The goals of Dallas’ new housing policy, according to a city memo, are to:

• Create and maintain available and affordable housing throughout Dallas

• Promote greater fair housing choices

• Overcome patterns of segregation and concentrations of poverty through incentives and requirements

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#ea0202″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But he knows that a comprehensive housing policy’s impact on segregation will be greater than relying on parents to choose diversity for their children.

“Housing is a lynchpin for a thriving city,” he says. “You cannot have a thriving city without quality housing for every citizen. We can’t deal with concentrated poverty without figuring out ways to disperse poverty, and you can’t desegregate a community if you have nowhere else for them to live.”

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Is the past present?

Read the notations of loan officers, developers and real estate professionals who created Dallas’ 1937 Home Owners’ Loan Corporation “residential security” maps and decide for yourself — do their descriptions of East Dallas neighborhoods in 1937 reflect today’s realities?

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Lakewood was “considered one of the highest type residential districts of Dallas, containing several homes costing as much as $60,000. This area is well platted and contains considerable natural beauty.”

Forest Hills boasted of “deed restrictions, location, type of construction and natural beauty” leading the map makers to believe that “present building activity will in all probability rapidly increase.”

In the M Streets area, from Central Expressway to Abrams and Mockingbird to Vanderbilt, homes were “protected by deed restrictions which have several years yet to run. It will continue to be desirable and sales activity will continue to be good.”

Swiss Avenue was a “highly restricted addition” whose homes “could be classed as edifices, occupied by well to do families.”

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North and west of Swiss, in what is now Vickery Place, the Belmont Addition and Lakewood Heights, the homes east of Skillman were considered the “best part of area.” The premiere suburban neighborhood of the early 1900s, Munger Place, was by 1937 considered the “worst part” of the area. The overall neighborhood was “still desirable” even with “apartment houses scattered over [the] entire area.”

Hollywood-Santa Monica, Parks Estates (Abrams Brookside) and Junius Heights received points for being proximal to a grade school (Lipscomb Elementary), city parks, a community business center (Lakewood Shopping Center) and the Lakewood Country Club, but because of the age of homes, “heavy traffic on Gaston Avenue” and “encroachment of apartment houses,” they were “still desirable” but not “best.”

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The Mount Auburn neighborhood, adjacent to Hollywood-Santa Monica, was “definitely declining,” with its “mixed type of construction” and “encroachment of commercial and industrial establishments.”

Most everything else in Old East Dallas, including Peak’s Addition southwest of Fitzhugh and Ross, Belmont Park southwest of Henderson Avenue, and the neighborhood around Woodrow Wilson High School, was “definitely declining.” The properties were “old” and in “poor” repair. There were “industrial plants” and “railroad tracks through part of [the] area,” plus “many large apartments houses of varying degrees of desirability.”

Most areas around White Rock Lake and other northern parts of what is now East Dallas hadn’t been developed into neighborhoods yet.

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