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Quietly, Patiently, a Coalition's Building to Solve Dallas's Affordable Housing Problem

On Tuesday, some of Temple Emanu-El's best and brightest -- plus a few outliers, among them a city employee, a builder, a developer and the Rev. B.L. Smith of the Jericho Road Community Development Corporation -- gathered to brainstorm what their group has in mind for affordable housing in the city. It's a daunting task being spearheaded by the Dallas Faith Communities Coalition, whose holding-pattern Web site serves to remind that any solutions are still closer to concept than reality. But the small group of 15, led by Rabbi Asher Knight and DFCC's Regina Nippert, remained on point throughout the evening, save for those few moments when Smith had to explain black tar heroin and "poverty pimps" to a couple of prim but feisty grandmotherly types.

While many members articulated lofty ambitions for ending homelessness and fomenting a citywide affordable housing "movement," others thought the most practical answer to Dallas's affordable housing crisis is action -- in other words, building houses.

"Platitudes are great, but the world is full of platitudes," said builder Richard Harwood. "We've got to be pragmatic about this. There are constraints in the market to where we may not be able to do project A, B, C or D. Project F may be the least desirable, but it may be the most feasible."

Harwood was perhaps the best-prepared one there: Drawing on his decades of experience as a builder, he produced a comprehensive plan for a housing project, from its broadest ideological beginnings to the specific (and crucial) endpoint: financing. That, of course, will be the sticking point, should this group decides to pool its goals and resources and enter the affordable housing business -- and during a recession, no less. Still, there's time: Meetings are scheduled monthly through October, and, as Nippert put it in an e-mail to Unfair Park, "it is always interesting to see how the sausage is made."

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