Dallas Committee Signs Off on Federal Money for Slumlords' Tenants Deposed by City Regulations

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The Dallas City Council's Housing Committee made it clear Monday that it doesn't want the city to face a crisis like the one in West Dallas over the fates of occupants of rental homes owned by the Khraish family.

Rather than hoping that another landlord will offer to finance and sell the rental homes to low-income tenants, as the Khraish family has done, the committee approved a plan Monday to reallocate some discretionary federal funds. The money would go to relocated residents who are displaced when landlords can't meet the city's rental property regulations. Those residents would receive cash for things like relocation expenses, deposits, rent shortfalls and setup costs for utilities.

Dallas' Chapter 27 regulations, passed in 2016, tightened code requirements at rental properties throughout the city. Under the new rules, landlords are required to do things like provide air conditioning capable of cooling apartments down to 85 degrees, stop mold and limit bedbugs. At the time, supporters of the new regulations, like Housing Committee Chairman Scott Griggs, described them as surgical.

But the regulations had ripple effects. This year, controversy rose around the regulations as the city attempted to use them to force the Khraishes to improve the rental homes they own in West Dallas. The Khraishes balked, telling the city that the homes are too old and obsolete to be brought up to code, and, fearing the huge fines that would result from hundreds of daily code violations, moved to evict more than 200 tenants.

A court case ensued, and families received court injunctions that allowed them to stay in their homes until the end of the school year. The Khraishes recently announced a plan to sell the rental homes to tenants. Owner-occupied houses aren't subject to Chapter 27.

Under the new plan, the city would shift $1 million of the money it receives from Housing and Urban Development to something called tenant based rental assistance. That money would go to renters displaced when their owners fail to meet Chapter 27 requirements.

The city can continue handing out assistance funds to displaced residents for 24 months.

Griggs praised the new program Monday before the housing committee voted unanimously to send it to the full City Council later this month.

"I'm very excited about this relocation program, going along with Chapter 27," Griggs said. "I think this is very important for the city, and the city has a responsibility to assist with relocation, particularly when we use Chapter 27, since it is never the intention of this council or this city to turn so many residents into collateral damage."

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