As costs have increased in urban neighborhoods, more communities are adopting “inclusionary zoning” ordinances that require developers to set aside units for families of modest means. These mandatory or voluntary programs are increasingly becoming a hot topic as the cost of rent continues to skyrocket nationwide with the average renter paying about $1,000 a month to live in an apartment.
Here in Dallas-Fort Worth, apartment rents hit a record high of $1,082 a month, a 50 percent increase from a decade ago, according to the latest data from Richardson-based RealPage. Just as rent is rising at a rapid rate — so is the area’s population. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Dallas-Fort Worth welcomed more than 140,000 new residents from 2015 to 2016. That’s more than any metro in the United States, to the tune of hundreds of people moving here each day.
Because of the unprecedented growth, there aren’t enough units for everyone who needs a place to live — let alone units below the market rate. A 2017 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, shows there are only 19 affordable homes available for every 100 low-income families in Dallas.
Affordable Housing Incentives
Texas state law bans cities from requiring inclusionary zoning. However, they can create incentives, contract commitments, density bonuses or other voluntary programs to increase the supply of lower-cost housing units.
In Dallas, the City Council has discussed Voluntary Inclusionary Zoning to help lower-income people find a place to live. Dallas has also been mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build lower-income housing in thriving areas with public transport and job opportunities instead of being pushed out to undeveloped sectors.
The City of Dallas also uses TIF (Tax-Increment Financing) as a tool for developing affordable housing in up-and-coming areas. Developers who receive TIF funds are required by the city to set aside a percentage of units to be available at below market rates to those earning less than 80 percent of the Area Median Family Income for a period of 15 years. Currently, Dallas has 18 active TIF districts.
These initiatives have encouraged developers and builders to get more creative when it comes to finding a balance between using the right building materials and providing a good mix of residential amenities — all while ensuring the business model remains profitable. One way developers can carry out this practice is by redeveloping brownfield sites. Brownfields are often abandoned, closed or under-used industrial or commercial facilities, but they have tons of potential to be revitalized and turned into profitable projects.
Overall, developers have started focusing on implementing practical and measurable strategies and solutions aimed at achieving high performance in sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality that can ultimately earn a building LEED Certification.
Integrating Affordable Housing with High-End Design
The design of affordable housing developments has often been stigmatized as run-down and easily distinguishable from higher income apartments. Another benefit of integrating affordable housing into new developments is that it helps break down this negative reputation.
For example, award-winning architectural firm Lake Flato Architects designed Sylvan | Thirty, a mixed-used development located in West Dallas, with the help of world-renowned Dallas-based interior designer Paul Duesing Partners. Duesing’s impressive portfolio consists of designing five-star resorts in Cabo San Lucas, Zambia and Bermuda. He applies his cultural experiences and learnings to every aspect of his projects, including Sylvan | Thirty. All of the development’s units and public spaces were tastefully designed for all residents, no matter the income level, to embrace the same chic and comfortable amenities.
As we progress and more buildings are constructed to keep up with demand, a person’s level of income shouldn’t dictate the design of their home. Living in equal housing helps to break down the borders between people and creates a sense of pride among its residents.
Brent Jackson, Founder and President of Oaxaca Interests, LLC, has nearly 20 years of experience in development, leasing and project management. He may be reached at www.oaxacallc.com