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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

One Crisis Away, No Place To Go: A Look Inside The Conflict Between Landlord And City

Allison V. Smith
KERA special contributor
305 families are set to lose their rental homes in early June. The houses no longer meet code enforcement standards that were strengthened in September.

The City of Dallas can now inspect the inside of rental properties—something that wasn’t possible before code enforcement standards were tightened in September.

Mayor Mike Rawlings hopes that policy means higher living standards for everyone, especially low-income families. Unless something dramatic happens, property owner Khraish Khraish says, 305 low-income families will lose their homes by early June.

KERA’s series One Crisis Away: No Place To Go examines a conflict that’s been brewing for months.

Business Roots In West Dallas

Khraish Khraish and his father are co-owners of HMK Ltd. They own commercial businesses in West Dallas and back in 2004, they bought hundreds of 70-year-old rental homes in West Dallas and Oak Cliff. He says back then, the buildings were in worse shape, and HMK put millions into improving them.

“These homes were built without the oversight of building code,” says Khraish. “Without the supervision of building inspectors back in the 1940s.”

He says since housing standards were strengthened last fall, getting the houses up to code isn’t an option.

“Not just impractical but it’s impossible. No matter how much money, you cannot throw enough money into these houses and make them compliant,” he says. “You essentially would have to rebuild them.”

The Dilemma

Here’s the problem. Renters are paying as little as $300 a month. Demolishing the houses and starting from scratch would price those families out of the new homes.

He says that’s why HMK is shuttering the rental houses. Khraish and the City of Dallas agreed—HMK wouldn’t be fined for code violations through the end of the school year. Families have until June 3rd to leave—about 200 of them already have.

Just this week Khraish collected 100 signatures from residents who remain. The petition asks a Dallas County district judge for a 12 to 18 month extension so HMK can develop affordable housing in West Dallas. He’s filed a request for an emergency hearing which is scheduled for Friday.

“I think the families that remain are holding on to that last bit of hope that a miracle’s going to occur and that they’ll get to stay,” says Khraish

The City Focuses On Quality Housing

Mayor Mike Rawlings says the city’s old regulations led to a lot of shabby housing.

“The city code was an important discussion because we had so many poor families living in conditions that were unhealthy,” he says.

And that’s the problem with weak housing standards, Rawlings says— low income families suffer.

“It’s not just for people with money, but for people who don’t have money and we’ve got to have clear standards, and I’m glad we did that.  It’s hard because policies have implications and it creates change, but I think ultimately we need to raise the bar for families that live in poverty,” he says.

Like the families in these houses.

“I don’t want anybody left behind,” Rawlings says.

Hear more from Mayor Mike Rawlings and Khraish Khraish and explore all of One Crisis Away: No Place To Go here.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.