A Hearing on Whether Dallas Discriminates When It Comes to Downtown Housing

On Thursday we will get an interesting first official bite of the apple in complaints that the city of Dallas flouts federal law and practices racial discrimination in its downtown housing policies. The board of directors of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs will ask downtown developers Ted and Larry Hamilton to defend their Atmos Lofts project downtown against charges that it includes an illegally racially segregated building.

Developer Curtis Lockey wrote to TDHCA last June saying the Hamiltons had designed a three-building project at the southeast corner of downtown so that all of the projects rent-controlled low-income units would be concentrated in one building.

Ted Hamilton told Unfair Park some weeks ago that his Atmos Lofts project will include all four of the buildings in the former Atmos Energy complex, with one building devoted entirely to low-income residents. He described the plan as legitimate way to get more low-income housing into downtown.

In his complaint to TDHCA, Lockey says the valuable tax credits the Hamiltons are seeking from TDHCA carry special obligations to comply with federal civil rights and housing laws. It's Lockey's opinion that sticking all of the low-income into a physically separated portion of the Atmos development will violate those laws:

"The complete concentration of low income housing units in one building of the four-building complex will represent the very segregation, discrimination, and lack of integration that Federal Fair Housing and Civil Rights Laws were designed to prevent," Lockey says in his letter to TDHCA.

Lockey and Craig MacKenzie claim the city of Dallas shut down their 1600 Pacific project because it contained more low-income housing than the city wanted downtown, even though the project met federal legal requirements. In a complaint to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lockey and MacKenzie charged the city with enforcing an official policy of racial discrimination downtown.

Thursday TDHCA staff will ask the Hamiltons to explain their position as part of the TDHCA board's scheduled day-long meeting. The proceedings will be simulcast from the Texas House of Representatives' Web site.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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