Land purchase approved for Cypress Creek affordable housing development in North Dallas
The Dallas City Council gave city staff the green light to purchase land for a proposed northern Dallas affordable housing development. But the exact terms of the lease will be ironed out by the city’s housing committee.
Some city officials see the item going back to committee as yet another tactic to delay affordable housing developments in the northern sector of Dallas.
That’s what came out of nearly ten public speakers and a three-hour-long executive session that halted Wednesday’s Dallas City Council meeting.
The proposed Cypress Creek at Forest Lane mixed-income development would bring over 100 affordable apartments near the intersection of U.S. Highway 75 and Forest Lane in District 10.
The development has been the subject of controversy since it began — with legal hurdles around deed restrictions, accusations of NIMBY-ism and claims of further-deepening segregation in Dallas.
Most recently, the project was delayed after the Dallas Public Finance Committee voted to send the development project to City Council for approval.
Opponents of the development say they’re ready to sue the city if the plan is approved. Advocates and those in support of the plan say this is yet another example in a long list of backlashes to affordable housing in northern Dallas.
Ann Lott is the executive director of the Inclusive Communities Project, which works to implement strategies that “promote fair and affordable housing in high opportunity areas” of Dallas. She spoke in favor of the Cypress Creek project during Wednesday’s council meeting.
“I urge you not to be persuaded by the patronizing voices that say it’s not the right location,” Lott said. “It’s never going to be the right location as long as it’s in their neighborhood.”
‘Promote integration…stop segregation’
44-year-old Brittany Jones relies on vouchers for access to affordable housing. She says stigma around mixed and low-income housing is a major barrier when it comes to getting projects like Cypress Creek built.
“A lot of people don’t know a voucher holder, never met one or haven’t taken the time to see how we live,” Jones said.
Jones says she has a degree in criminology and experience in community organizing. But when it comes time to find suitable housing, all her accolades “go out the window.” Jones says the Cypress Creek development would give individuals like her options in a thriving environment.
“There are schools, there’s hospitals, there’s churches,” Jones said. “You have a better way of life, and nobody wants to give us that…in the end we just want options like everybody else.”
Some District 10 residents, like Robb Stewart, argued that individuals and families moving into the proposed development wouldn’t be able to utilize the resources, due to a lack of walkable infrastructure and high crime in the area.
“In addition to being in a bad location, it’s almost two miles to the closest grocery store. It’s two DART busses to get there and three to get back,” Stewart said. “Think of a young mother, with two gallons of milk, and two small children in tow.”
Council Member Adam McGough represents District 10 where the development is planned to be built. He says some areas around the proposed site — like the DART station — are too dangerous for families and children.
“When I myself was living on the streets temporarily, I couldn’t stay at the DART station because it was not safe for me physically,” McGough said during Wednesday’s meeting. “You could stand there today and watch drug transactions happen one after the other.”
But advocates of the project say these talking points are tried and true whenever an affordable housing project arises — especially when it’s not in southern Dallas.
Zachary Krochtengel of Sycamore Strategies – the project developer — says right now, District 10 has less than 1% of the city’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) units.
“When you add the 103 affordable units from Cypress Creek at Forrest Lane, District 10 would still have he least LITCH units than any other council district in the city,” Krochtengel said.
Lott says projects like Cypress Creek will ensure Dallas makes good on its obligation to provide essential services to all residents.
“The patterns of segregation that we see across the city, suggests that the City of Dallas has not met its obligation,” Lott said. “Approval of this particular project will help the city meet its obligation…to promote integration and stop segregation.”
William Roth is an owner of a 75,000 square-foot commercial office building that sits adjacent to the proposed development. He spoke out against the project on behalf of himself and his business partners.
“We strongly oppose this project. It is a direct violation of a deed restriction that prevents apartments from being developed at this site,” Roth said.
He says the case law is clear: Under the proposed site’s deed restriction, if the city allows the development of the project, Roth — and other business owners – will consider the action as seizure of their property rights for the “benefit of a private developer.”
“We will sue the city and the developer,” Roth said. “We don’t want to do that, but we will do it. We are prepared to do it.”
Philip Kingston is an attorney who was hired by Sycamore Strategies to oversee the Cypress Creek development. He says the city needs affordable housing, especially at the planned development site.
“Our lack of affordable housing is tantamount to a fire,” Kingston said. “It’s become dangerous to our city.”
Kingston said this project has the potential to put over 100 families in quality housing.
But McGough warned against legal retaliation against the development.
“We absolutely know without a doubt not just that we will be sued, we know who’s going to sue us, we know what they’re going to sue us for,” McGough said during Wednesday’s meeting. “And I can tell you…it’s not just going to be the city getting sued. We’re going to be sued individually…the communications that we’ve had with everybody are going to come out.”
McGough also says the proposal made its way onto the council’s agenda at the eleventh-hour – citing an email he received from the city attorney’s office on Monday stating “staff has gone ahead and included the resolution for Wednesday’s agenda, despite no sign-off” from their office.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax said that he understands any hesitation felt by council members because the agenda item was added the night before the meeting. He added that city staff’s revisions of the resolution were for the “benefit of the city.”
District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua said he would not support a complete denial of the plan.
“I feel that a denial is inappropriate,” Bazaldua said. “If there is any policy discussion based on the need for more understanding…denial would not give us that opportunity.”
He says council members needed to be more intentional in their actions if the goal is to work out the issues with the plan – and not to just “kill the project.” Bazlauda requested the executive session to discuss legal concerns with the city attorney’s office.
‘Stand up today…and do what’s right’
After extensive discussion around the horseshoe and the introduction — and withdrawal — of multiple motions to amend the agenda item, council members voted to approve the land acquisition needed for the development. The terms of the lease will be discussed by the housing committee and again by the full council next month.
Bazaldua, who introduced the final motion, says he knows sending the item back to the housing committee gives it the ability to be “kicked down the road.” But by acquiring the land now will keep the deal moving forward.
“I don’t want perfect to be an enemy of good,” Bazaldua said. “And us to see a good project for our city, go away.”
Broadnax says the resolution going back to a committee wouldn’t yield anything new.
“A delay is simply a delay,” Broadnax said. “And it’s simply a month longer that someone will go without housing.”
Mayor Pro Tem Carloyn King Arnold expressed concerns and frustration over the debate over the questions about the housing project.
“Most of you have been reelected,” Arnold said. “Don’t be scared, stand up and do what’s right.”
Arnold was not the only council member to express irritation at offering Dallas officials what city council member have long asked them to do — increase affordable housing.
“The council has the ability…to build some units for which you say is one of the top priorities of this city council, that you harp on us to find opportunities to do it every day,” Broadnax said. “We found the opportunity; we found the vehicle.”
City staff will work on closing on the land for the proposed development. The city’s housing committee will discuss the term of the lease in late May. The item will be before the city council at the June 14 meeting.
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