Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston did nothing wrong when he advocated for zoning changes to make building and renting garage apartments easier in Dallas before building a garage apartment on his own property, Dallas' Ethics Advisory Commission decided Tuesday.
Kingston was under fire after an anonymous member of the public complained that Kingston pushed the city council to authorize garage apartment rentals in the city in order to personally profit from a unit he and his partner Melissa Kingston built over their garage in East Dallas.
During his time on the City Council, Kingston has repeatedly argued for garage or backyard apartments as a way to help diversify housing stock in single-family neighborhoods. Last summer, he helped pass an ordinance allowing Dallas residents to apply to rent out a garage unit already built on their property. The complaint filed against Kingston alleged that he abused a second process — which ended with his subdivision loosening its accessory dwelling unit rules — so that he'd have an easier time renting out the apartment he intended to build, if he ever decided to do so.
At Tuesday's hearing, Kingston and attorney Victor Vital argued that the council member didn't benefit from the changes any more than any of his neighbors. In fact, Melissa Kingston told the commission, she and her partner will actually lose money on the 375-square-foot unit they are building if they rent it out at market rates.
"I anticipate my monthly nut on (the garage apartment) is going to be about $1,115 to $1,150 per month," Melissa Kingston said.
The Kingstons could rent the unit for about $800 a month, Melissa Kingston said.
Several of Kingston's neighbors in the Belmont Addition Conservation District also told the ethics commission that their council member was simply pushing for what was best for the neighborhood in advocating for the apartments.
"In order to be able to rent a home in my neighborhood, you're looking at probably $3 or $4,000 (per month)," said Sarah Wick, who bought a home in the neighborhood in 1983. "In order to be able to live and work in your neighborhood, you need to have affordable housing."
Wick has a unit in her backyard that, because of the changes Kingston pushed for, can now be finished out with a kitchen and rented to someone who might otherwise be unable to live in the neighborhood, she said.
After a nearly three-hour hearing, the commissioners unanimously agreed with Kingston.
"There's virtually nothing that you do for the city that doesn't affect you as a homeowner in that city," Commissioner William Coleman said. "Our government would grind to a halt if we forced all the people that were doing the votes to not vote on a matter that affected them in some fashion."