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Delving Into Affordable Housing and Transit: Connect Texas Multifamily

By Amy Sorter

Here’s an interesting statistic: Approximately 3.8 million people are forecast to relocate to North Texas over the next 20 years. While this is good news, and it shows a region that is growing, there is a problem. “Though we have a great transit system,” said Paris Rutherford with Catalyst Urban Development, “it encompasses less than 2% of the MSA.” Rutherford led the “Conversation with DART and the City of Dallas about the Economic Impact of Transit-Oriented Development and Housing Policy” at the recent Connect Texas Multifamily. And, the consensus was that, to accommodate all the in-migration, agencies would need to step up.

On the housing end, the City of Dallas’ Robin Bentley said the city has been taking a hard look at its housing policy, focusing on a market value analysis that started in 2017 and ramped up in 2018. “The assumption was that north meant wealth, stable, and south meant distressed,” she said. “But we found it was more nuanced than that.” There are, she noted, stable middle-market areas in South Dallas, and very distressed areas in North Dallas.

The value analysis was able to divide the pockets into three areas, she said: more stressed areas surrounded by an affluent market, in which gentrification could step in; middle stabilization and a third area, “which isn’t ready to market,” Bentley said. “Those are the areas where the city needs to step in and get it ready for redevelopers to come in and build a product.” To that end, and based on that analysis, the city approved an affordable housing policy in May.

Meanwhile, on the transportation side, “the goal of any transit agency is moving people, getting them from place to place, safely and effectively,” said Jack Wierzenski with the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). Within that transit structure, he went on to say, are the transit-oriented developments. DART can assist in this endeavor to an extent; the agency owns the land around its stations, which are used primarily for parking. But that land is being underutilized. The challenge DART faces is that “we don’t have the ability to change the land use,” Wierzenski explained. “If we want to change the use, we have to go through the city we’re in.” As such, while DART is willing to lend a hand with affordable housing, “We’ll partner with the cities on that,” Wierzenski said. “We can’t lead it.”

Finally, Bentley focused on the importance of transit when it came to getting companies to relocate to the region. Corporations want the transportation, which can include transit and ride-sharing. “Employees want to be near art and entertainment, near the cool stuff, and diversity,” she said. I’ve been hearing that a lot from out-of-state corporate relocations.”

Pictured (l-r); Jack Wierzenski (DART), Robin Bentley (City of Dallas), Paris Rutherford (Catalyst Urban Development)

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About Mark El-Rayes

Mark El-Rayes is an award winning designer and photographer from Beirut, Lebanon. El-Rayes has over 15 years in the design industry, 5 years of which he served as a Mass Communication Specialist in the United States Navy at Naval Air Station North Island, Navy Public Affairs Support Element - West (NPASE). El-Rayes is a full-stack developer, seo specialist, photographer, and artist.