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2026 Fort Worth bond could include housing, a first for the city, drawing in private money

Palm Tree Apartments, located near Carter Riverside, is one of the first permanent supportive housing developments in Fort Worth. With a housing bond, the city could support single-family housing, housing for people experiencing homelessness and the city’s community land trust.
Rachel Behrndt
Fort Worth Report
Palm Tree Apartments, located near Carter Riverside, is one of the first permanent supportive housing developments in Fort Worth. With a housing bond, the city could support single-family housing, housing for people experiencing homelessness and the city’s community land trust.

Renewed interest in tackling housing affordability could result in the first housing bond allocation. That’s if the Fort Worth City Council and voters support it.

For years, the majority of affordable housing in the city has been built primarily using private investments along with housing tax credits to incentivize new construction. But housing advocates have long touted the benefit of putting a housing proposal on a bond to spur more investment from the private sector.

“I don’t know how we are, as a community, going to raise the capital if we don’t do some kind of bond,” said Lauren King, executive director of the Tarrant County Homeless Coalition, to City Council members during an April 2 meeting.

Fort Worth is the largest city in Texas not to have had a bond election for housing. Other cities that have passed a bond that included housing saw an increase in private dollars.

“For every dollar of bonds, you have anywhere from $6 to $9 in private money that helps augment and support what the city is putting in,” said Donna VanNess, president of Housing Channel.

Closing the housing affordability gap with new construction using public funding would cost between $1.7 billion for 19,000 units and $2.9 billion for 32,000 units, according to Fort Worth’s Neighborhood Conservation Plan and Housing Affordability Strategy.

As the city prepares for the 2026 bond, staffers have solicited proposals from various departments about what they would like to include.

Neighborhood Services, which oversees housing services for the city, has put forth a $100 million proposal for capital funds to be considered for the bond. The funds would support single-family housing, housing for people experiencing homelessness and the city’s community land trust.

Council’s focus shifted

In the past, the council’s priority was tackling the infrastructure needs of the growing city, a focus reflected in previous bonds. Fire and police resources also remain popular bond propositions.

However, the priorities of this newer, younger council have shifted, said Eric Fladager, assistant finance director for the city’s FW Lab.

“We’ve been playing catch-up for years just with infrastructure to support the rapid growth that’s been occurring,” Fladager said.

The idea for adding a housing component to the bond was introduced to council members at a February work session on homelessness and again at the council meeting on April 2.

Council members Chris Nettles and Jared Williams, who chairs the Neighborhood Revitalization and Quality Committee, were among those who showed an interest in the addition’s potential.

“As we prepare for the bond, I would like to see an option available including a housing proposition,” Williams said. “I know sometimes we get things spoon-fed to us — it’s no knock to anyone — and this is not one of those instances where we have something vague. I think it’s important as a council that we have a discussion about what does it look like, and give it a fair shot to do that.”

Williams also said looking at programs that increase homeownership will create “a catalyst to create generational opportunities for assets in a period where people are asset limited.”

Over the years, the city of Fort Worth has implemented diverse programs to support the development of new housing at different price points. This includes financing projects through Neighborhood Empowerment Zones; tax increment financing; federal programs; and the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corporation.

The city is also exploring its first land bank and community land trust as a way to acquire land to build housing. Fort Worth also has invested in the construction of permanent supportive housing for the city’s chronically homeless.

“Our city has done a fabulous job of creating economic development opportunities, jobs,” VanNess said. “We really need to support that workforce with affordable housing.”

How have other Texas cities done it?

In Dallas, housing has appeared on city bonds but it did not always come across as a separate proposition, said Cynthia Rogers-Ellickson, interim director of housing and neighborhood revitalization for the city of Dallas.

Dallas currently has two propositions on its 2024 bond that address housing: $61 million for infrastructure that supports affordable housing and $8.5 million to build permanent supportive housing and housing for people experiencing homelessness.

In 2017, while housing did not have an allocation of bond funds, it did receive $6 million in discretionary funds. In other cases, housing funds were part of the city’s economic development proposition. It all depended on the council at the time.

Ultimately, the bonds helped the city of Dallas address the urgent need for more affordable housing and make improvements to surrounding communities, Rogers-Ellickson said.

“With bond funds, we’re not only able to build the affordable housing units and provide gaps subsidy to more projects than we would with just our federal dollars, we’re also able to improve the roads and the public infrastructure in those old neighborhoods that a lot of our developers need to build in,” she said.

Austin issued individual housing packages for 2018 and 2022 bonds, said James May, housing and community development officer for the city of Austin Housing Department. Both bond packages passed.

In both of those bonds, language laid out for voters the four areas where the money would be spent. Similar to Dallas, in Austin, not every dollar goes toward building new units; some will go toward the preservation of affordable housing.

“Without the (general obligation, or GO) bonds and without our local financing, we wouldn’t have been able to see the number of developments take advantage of those private activity bonds and low-income housing tax credits at the speed that we have seen,” May said.

For many cities, the use of bond funds for housing has helped stretch dollars to supplement projects that federal dollars alone cannot.

“(Bonds) are one funding source in the tool belt. We also have our Housing Trust Fund. We also have our federal dollars to spend, as well as fees in lieu of that we’ve received from density bonus programs,” May said. “So it’s not just the GO bonds. There are so many ways for us to finance development. But the GO bonds are definitely our biggest card in the deck. It’s a boon for the housing development to provide that level of resource.”

Next steps

The road to the 2026 bond is long, said Christianne Simmons, chief transformation officer for the city’s FWLab. An initial call for projects was sent out in early February, and staff members hope to receive all project submissions by the end of April and start reviewing them.

During an internal committee’s review of the projects submitted for the bond proposal, things like cost estimates, future cost escalations and prioritization will play a role in what will be presented in the preliminary list to the council and the public.

That will be followed by a series of public meetings and open houses. Fladager said the city aims to have a list of projects for council members to review by the end of 2024.

The council has shown openness to exploring the topic of including housing in the future bond, Simmons said. During the council’s recent strategic retreat, members emphasized the need for more community investment to reduce homelessness and clear barriers to additional housing.

“If we include in the bond program for 2026 some proposed funding for affordable housing, permanent supportive housing or both — that will be new for the city,” Fladager said. “I think that that is a recognition of just the extent of the need of the role that the city of Fort Worth can play in that and sort of by extension, the Fort Worth community, by voting for those bond funds to be used for that purpose.”

Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at or @ssadek19.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policyhere

This article first appeared on Fort Worth Report and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.