Why some southern Dallas groups are fighting City Hall’s big affordable housing plan

Staff Photographer

CLARIFICATION, 4:48 p.m. Wednesday, April 11: This story has been updated to clarify that developer Yigal Lelah did not declare personal bankruptcy but signed the bankruptcy filing of his company, Sapphire Road Development, LLC.

Anna Hill has spent years fighting decline and despair in her Dolphin Heights neighborhood.

Now, she said, City Hall is turning its back on her community because they’re "planning to kick the CHDOs aside." CHDOs, pronounced "chodos," stands for Community Housing Development Organizations, nonprofits that have used city dollars for years to build new houses that dot some blocks of poverty-stricken neighborhoods. Hill says they’ve been a boon to South Dallas.

Without them, she said, "somebody’s going to get left out, and it’ll be people right here."

The city’s proposed comprehensive housing policy is, in many ways, a repudiation of the way CHDOs have operated in Dallas for years. The plan calls for building 20,000 new homes, helping homeowners and landlords, and bringing back the city’s middle class. And none of the proposed target areas fall where the CHDOs have worked.

City housing officials — who have spent months cleaning up messes, mistakes and myriad records issues of the previous regime — say the policy is meant to help the beleaguered city housing department comply with federal housing law and will produce better results than the ad hoc tack of the past.

CHDOs were given $33.2 million in federal and city money since 2004, according to city officials. That money produced 736 new single-family homes and 33 apartment units. And some of the money hasn’t been spent yet, even though some was awarded years ago.

Those homes can stand in stark contrast to blighted homes not far away. Some of them can be seen driving through Jubilee Park, Bexar Street, Fair Park Estates and Spring Avenue. Some of the apartments are along the Lancaster Corridor.

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