Can Dallas Do Better? The Inclusive Communities Project Gets Their Day in Court

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 Photo of the Dallas skyline by Ken Slade.
Photo of the Dallas skyline by Ken Slade.

Thousands of African-American families in Dallas want the opportunity to live in integrated neighborhoods. Since 2005, ICP has helped more than 3,000 of these families use Section 8 certificates and vouchers to find good housing in safe neighborhoods. When 1,000 vouchers for use in desegregated areas were made available in 2008, more than 14,000 black families in Dallas signed up for them.

Simultaneously in 2008, when Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., a Dallas nonprofit group, filed suit in federal court against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, records showed racial segregation in these developments, funded with hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, was more pronounced than the overt segregation in Dallas’ public housing program. The lawsuit said that over the past two decades, the state housing agency perpetuated racial segregation in Dallas by disproportionately approving projects housing African-American families in poor minority areas and elderly developments in mostly-white, middle-class neighborhoods.

Of the city’s 6,400 family public housing units in 1994, 95 percent were segregated in poor, minority areas, the result of what the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals termed “a sordid tale of overt and covert racial discrimination and segregation.”

Of the 17,400 family tax-credit apartments in Dallas in 2008, more than 92 percent were in low-income, minority areas, many plagued by high crime and environmental threats.

A case currently facing the Supreme Court has the potential to undermine the 1968 Fair Housing Act and perpetuate residential segregation across the country.

On January 21st, the Supreme Court argued over the legality of funding low-income housing developments in Dallas, Texas. The Inclusive Communities Project, a Dallas-based organization, claims that the Texas Department of Housing is in violation of the 1968 Fair Housing Act because it disproportionately builds affordable housing in poor neighborhoods. This keeps people who are in need of affordable housing in poor neighborhoods. Since people who need affordable housing are disproportionately people of color, that means cities like Dallas remain segregated by race.

On the other side, the Texas Department of Housing argues that not placing people in pre-existing state-funded housing would cost the state more money. More people can be housed in existing buildings in cheap neighborhoods.

At the heart of this case is the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This key piece of civil rights legislation was passed just seven days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On paper, the Fair Housing Act ended the widespread practice of redlining—the explicit restriction of people of color from certain neighborhoods. However,present day housing discrimination exists in various forms, including landlords’ tendency to quote higher rental prices to people of color and building managers often refusing to rent to people with kids.

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