Addressing Economic Segregation in the DFW Area
A 2015 study revealed that three of the country’s most “economically segregated large metro areas” at the time were found in Texas, namely Austin-Round Rock, San Antonio, Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington.
For an area to be tagged as economically segregated, it has to have clear divisions along the lines of income, educational attainment, and occupation.
These insights also describe the widening wealth gap in the state. Indeed, according to an article on the Houston Chronicle, Texas was one of nine states where income inequality worsened in 2018, despite posting positive growth numbers.
The problem becomes even more pronounced in the DFW area. According to an article in the Dallas Observer, the DFW area is more expensive as other high-income metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and New York “despite having some of the cheapest housing” in the country.
How did we arrive at this problem? The answer to that is policy.
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According to Heather Way of the University of Texas at Austin, economic segregation has always been a complex issue in the state, writing that the largest metropolitan areas have “a long history of exclusionary zoning, land use regulations and overtly discriminatory policies that fostered the geographic separation of the rich and poor.”
For that matter, housing discrimination has long been a problem for low-income citizens in the DFW area. In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development acted on complaints alleging discriminatory practices by the local government of Dallas. According to the agency’s findings, racial minorities and families below the poverty line were concentrated in distressed neighborhoods.
In addition, City Hall allegedly rejected plans to develop affordable housing near high-income areas downtown. This left the area’s impoverished population with limited opportunities to scale the income ladder while property prices in exclusion zones kept increasing.
HUD concluded its findings by recommending that Dallas “must develop a written, long-term strategy to address the siting of affordable housing throughout the city.”
Has Dallas succeeded in resolving its problem with economic segregation and exclusion zones?
Charting a way forward for affordable housing
Dallas acted to resolve its problem with exclusionary housing by introducing the Comprehensive Housing Policy in 2018 with three goals in mind:
(1) create and maintain affordable housing throughout Dallas,
(2) promote greater fair housing choices, and
(3) overcome patterns of segregation and concentrations of poverty through incentives and requirements.
With the implementation of the Assessment of Fair Housing however, HUD found that racial and economic segregation worsened, stating that there are less investments on low-income communities. Dallas took these findings seriously and has strengthened its commitment to secure opportunities for anyone, regardless of race, sex, religion, educational attainment, and economic status.
In accomplishing such goals, Dallas can take Way’s recommendation to ensure the fair distribution of affordable housing. It also has to work closely with organizations that are actively working to develop inclusive communities at the local level. For sure, these communities would consist of affordable housing options for veterans and blue-collar workers.
From a policy standpoint, providing affordable housing has to be the most logical way to address economic segregation. This, in turn, requires a convergence of public sector instrumentalities with private sector interventions. In its mission to transform communities in the DFW area and surrounding areas, Arbrook Realty is actively supporting initiatives to bring affordable housing to those who need it. If you would like to explore opportunities with us, give me a call.