You are no doubt aware that Dallas has a gaping divide separating the northern and southern parts of the city. In very broad strokes, north is rich and white, while south is poor and brown. There are complex historical and political reasons why this is so, most of them tied to racism and residential segregation, neither of which has entirely gone away. But back to the divide itself. It's easy, sometimes, to forget how stark it really is, which is where Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity's new "2015 Dallas Map Book," which the nonprofit recently distributed to the mayor, City Council and other City Hall decision-makers. In 22 maps — 23 if you count its map of Habitat neighborhoods — it presents a striking portrait of inequality in Dallas, not so much because of the individual maps themselves but because of the way they just keep coming.
Here's a geographic distribution of blight:
These are the locations of the homes encumbered by a lien for failure to pay code citations for things like high weeds: The map for Land Bank-eligible properties — i.e., those that are five years or more behind on property taxes — looks similar: And it's not just like southern Dallas has a disproportionate share of bad stuff, northern Dallas has a disproportionate share of good stuff, like expensive homes: And college degrees: And money: And here's distribution of poverty: And the concentration of households with at least one person with a disability, which in surprisingly large swaths of the city is approaching 50 percent: Jane Massey, Dallas Habitat's director of neighborhood research and revitalization, says the organization is presenting its map book now to help shape the conversation about Neighborhood-Plus, the City Hall housing program that grew out of Dallas' "voluntary compliance agreement" with HUD following the agency's four-year investigation of the city's tendency to steer affordable housing into low-income neighborhoods. The plan, which Habitat views as a vast improvement on Dallas' previous housing policy, has stalled as city and stakeholders have tried to iron out details. The City Council's housing committee will be briefed on the status for the umpteenth time on Tuesday. Meanwhile, next year's budget has eliminated additional funding for the program. Massey hopes the maps are numerous enough and stark enough to remind policymakers of the big-picture problems they are tasked with solving.