History of the Dallas Housing Authority

EARLY HISTORY

In 1937, the federal government recognized the need to give U.S. cities aid to clear slums and to replace them with decent, affordable housing. To provide this aid, Congress created the U.S. Housing Authority, giving it power to make loans to local housing authorities for the construction of affordable housing projects. On March 11, 1938, The Housing Authority of the City of Dallas, Texas, (DHA) was created by the Dallas City Council after being authorized by the Legislature of Texas under the Housing Authorities Law of 1937.

Dallas had the first public housing development west of the Mississippi River, Cedar Springs Place. Five other low-cost housing developments – Roseland Homes, Little Mexico Village, Washington Place, Frazier Courts and an addition to Cedar Springs Place -- were completed in the early 1940s.

During World War II, the city’s housing facilities were far from adequate to shelter the thousands of war workers who streamed into the city to manufacture bombs and other war necessities. To meet the emergency, 2,681 units of federally owned temporary war housing were constructed in Dallas. DHA was given management of the developments under contract with the federal government, and the developments were to be dismantled within two years of the end of the war.

Instead of improving, however, Dallas housing conditions worsened after the war. Veterans returned home to find there were no places for themselves and their families to live. The city of Dallas appealed to the federal government for surplus war housing to meet the emergency. Two hundred and fifty-eight Quonset huts, capable of housing 516 families, were allotted to Dallas and managed by DHA. They were used for a period of time before then being dismantled.

EXPANSION OF LOW-INCOME FAMILY HOUSING IN THE 1950s

In 1950, the Dallas Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Social Agencies recommended that West Dallas be annexed by the city of Dallas as soon as possible and that DHA be authorized to establish 3,500 units in West Dallas.

DHA cleared the annexed West Dallas site and launched construction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started work on additional pumping stations and storage pumps on the Trinity River to prevent flooding.

Master Plan Engineer Harland Bartholomew, under contract with the city, published a report on Dallas housing that included these findings: Dallas slums and the blighted areas in which they lay were a definite danger to health and social and economic welfare of the city; and Dallas could not long continue to live with its slums without sickening from them.

In place of the slums that existed in West Dallas, DHA built dwelling units that were solidly constructed and with modern facilities. Several permanent housing developments were constructed by DHA in the early 1950s. In 1952, an addition of 300 units to Frazier Courts on Hatcher Street was built, the 102-unit Brackins Village opened on E. Eighth Street, and the 294-unit Turner Courts was constructed on Bexar Street. In 1953, Rhoads Terrace, a development of 426 units, was occupied.

CHANGING DIRECTIONS

In the 1950s, the population using public housing gradually changed from transient, upwardly mobile residents seeking temporary housing during the postwar shortage to economically and educationally disadvantaged citizens with few opportunities to climb the socio-economic ladder. Public housing was racially integrated by federal law in the 1960s and the nation began to view it as in important resource for the poorest of the poor.

In 1969, 1970 and 1971, Congress enacted the Brooke Amendments, which limited rents charged to public housing residents to 25 percent of a familyís adjusted income. DHA was required to admit tenants who would pay no rent at all and to lower the rent for many existing tenants. The lawís impact was substantial. Public housing in Dallas quickly deteriorated. Many tenants were paying little or no rent while operating costs escalated. By the late 1970s, this created a precarious financial situation.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a period of tenant dissatisfaction and activism locally and nationally. Lawsuits were filed by tenant groups regarding grievance procedures. This ultimately resulted in many policy changes in Dallas. All DHA commissioners were replaced by the mayor and a push was made to bring active resident councils into existence in all developments.

TURNKEY III

In 1970, DHA participated in the Turnkey III Homeownership Opportunities Program, a program in which low-income families would move into homes as renters and progress to homeownership through conventional or FHA-guaranteed loans. This program of 387 individual units for large families was a new concept and the first of this type undertaken by DHA.

HI-RISE BUILDINGS FOR THE ELDERLY

In the early 1970s, the first high-rise developments designed for senior citizens were built. In 1971, Park Manor was opened and Brooks Manor was constructed. In 1974, Cliff Manor was opened

SECTION 8 (Housing Choice Voucher program)

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 made available to DHA a completely different type of low-income housing program called Section 8. The intent of the new program was to subsidize the rent of low-income families to help them afford decent housing in the private market. HUD would make up the difference between what a low-income household could afford and the fair market rent for an adequate housing unit.

TARGET PROJECTS PROGRAM

In 1977, DHA received a $13.5 million grant under the Department of Housing and Urban Developmentís (HUD) Target Projects Program (TPP), a federal grant program designed to aid developments that have a high vacancy rate and are in poor condition. The grant was to be used specifically for renovation of the West Dallas housing projects, a complex which included three developments with a total of 3,500 units.

The biggest problem with the mammoth effort to turn around the West Dallas projects was financial. The physical improvements needed could not be done on the budget the federal government had allotted. The program was eliminated in 1979 when funding for the TPP ended, and after considerable abuse was uncovered in disbursing overtime pay.

REORGANIZATION OF DHA IN 1979

In the late 70s, dissatisfaction with public housing conditions created problems for staff, residents, the board of commissioners and the public. This was particularly true of the Section 8 program. Less than one-half of the units were occupied in mid-1979, the eligibility of many participants was questioned and outside auditors determined that the program was incapable of being audited.

Recognizing the seriousness of the problems within DHA, the board of commissioners and the new executive director initiated a broad analysis of conditions, policies, practices and procedures. The study included an audit by an outside accounting firm; a management review conducted by HUD; and a questionnaire circulated to resident council officers, DHA staff and social service agencies. As a result of the findings, DHA was completely reorganized and corrective action was taken to deal with specific findings.

In June 1981, HUD conducted another management review of DHA and determined the following: ìConsidering the authorityís condition at the time of previous review, we are impressed that so much has been accomplished in so short a time.

WALKER LAWSUIT

In 1985, seven African American women sued DHA over segregated and inferior public housing for low-income Dallas residents. The lawsuit, known as the Walker case, documented the disconcerting reality of public housing in Dallas. The U.S. District Court established that public housing units were built only in minority sections of the city and tenant selection procedures were operated to maintain racially segregated housing. It was also determined that certain housing programs implemented procedures to prevent minorities from moving into non-minority areas of Dallas.

In December 2004 - hundreds of millions of dollars and two decades later - the District Court recognized that DHA had fulfilled the courtís mandate by offering a myriad of housing choices and support services, all designed to assist clients along the road toward self- sufficiency.

TODAY

DHA continues to evolve as an agency that builds sustainable communities, offering updated properties that residents are proud to call home and providing a stepping stone to self-sufficiency. In the past several years, George Loving Place was demolished and replaced with Kingbridge Crossing; Edgar Ward Place with Lakeview Townhomes; and Elmer Scott Place with Villa Creek Apartments. DHA built Lake West Village, which consists of 50 single-family homes. Frankford Townhomes in North Dallas was constructed and Hidden Ridge Apartments at Lake Highlands was acquired and renovated. DHA also revitalized the East Dallas CityPlace neighborhood with the Roseland, Monarch and Carroll properties.

DHA residents can choose rental housing in the private marketplace throughout the city with the use of vouchers. Residents have more than 500 apartment complexes with more than 12,000 units from which to choose.

DHA continues to offer innovative programs that assist clients with homeownership. The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, for example, offers participants the opportunity to move into one of DHA's 50 single-family rental homes, giving residents the opportunity to experience the responsibility of living in a single-family home before taking the step to homeownership.

DHA also continues to foster community partnerships. The Lakewest Multipurpose Center is a perfect example of how several agencies can work together under one roof to serve the community. At the center, DHA has partnered with the YMCA, Head Start, the Dallas Police Department and Parkland hospital.† Clients can access recreation programs, day care, community safety and health care information and services in one convenient location.

DHA also purchased and rehabilitated an aging shopping center, making it the first public housing authority in the nation to own a shopping center. It attracts business to the West Dallas area with its national retail chains such as KFC, Taco Bell, Subway and H&R Block.

DHA continues to meet its clients' needs in the most fair, effective and efficient ways possible. With DHA assistance, residents will continue becoming self sufficient, contributing citizens.

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