West Dallas is my home away from home.
As Community Engagement Manager at Wesley-Rankin Community Center, my daily interactions with lifelong residents are special to me. We live, laugh, and play with a looming uncertainty of what to expect each day.
As luxury apartments and expensive townhomes are creeping into this sacred space, working in the proximity of this housing crisis with displaced families makes clear the fear and uncertainty of marginalized groups in this community. Recently land slated for affordable housing development by Dallas Habitat for Humanity was sold, the 1.4 acres of land in West Dallas with an uncertain future.
In September 2016, the catalyst of where community development started to peak began when 305 families were faced with the eviction notices to vacate their homes in West Dallas.
Drive past the intersection of Nomas Street and Winnetka Avenue and the overgrown brush is a daunting reminder of what used to be home for mostly Latinx and Black families. For many families that have lived within the community for generations, the changes have left them with no place to go.
Many share the ideal of the American dream – that longing for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone has a right to build their version of happiness. But often underrepresented communities of color are the first to pay the price for gentrification—especially within the City of Dallas.
A lack of choices for living comfortably emerges in West Dallas where expensive modern homes, and fine dining replacing the desolate warehouses and worn houses. Communities of color have no place they can afford to live and raise their families and no space to contribute their voice and culture.
“Unaffordable housing requires an occupant to spend more than 30 percent of his/her income,” according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Many families struggle to meet that 30 percent threshold, along with managing their household needs. Affordable living and community transformation need to include everyone, not just a select few.
The City of Dallas is making strides with the development of the Comprehensive Housing Policy with tangible goals to create and maintain affordable living conditions. At the same time, gentrification threatens and instills fear in minorities even with the stated best intentions from city leaders.
One of the goals of the Comprehensive Housing Policy is to “overcome patterns of segregation and concentrations of poverty.”
But looking at the prices of luxury apartments at The Austin at Trinity Green and Alta Trinity Green next to the homes struggling to keep up with code compliance demonstrates this dichotomy continues to be a battle.
Tucked away across Singleton Avenue, families may wonder when the next developer or realtor will start with offers again to buy their homes. They watch as land intended for affordable housing is put on the market.
No doubt they wonder whether or not the end is near.
Severina Ware is a non-profit professional with over a decade of experience developing community resources and mobilizing volunteers. She is a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.