Saturday, March 14, 2009

Who Shall Bell the Cat?, Part II

[If you haven’t read yesterday’s blog entry, please go back and read it, otherwise the following discussion won’t make much sense to you. Thank you.]
Everyone agrees (or at least give lip service) with the idea that the solution to homelessness is permanent supportive housing (see my blogs for February 5 and 6, 2009 if you need to for an explanation). At least if it’s in somebody else’s neighborhood.
The Dallas City Council has passed a resolution calling for the development of 700 new permanent supportive housing units, and even put in place a financing strategy to help build them. All this looks good. If you want to measure success by action, however, then nothing at all is happening.
The plan for permanent supportive housing calls for scattering housing for the homeless all over the city—nobody has said it officially, but I think the City Council is thinking that with 700 units planned and fourteen council districts that each district will get one project with fifty units.
In theory this sounds fair and reasonable. In practice it looks more dubious. Dallas is a city largely divided in half by the Trinity River and IH-30. The north is largely prosperous and mostly Anglo. This south is largely poor and mostly minority. In the center sits downtown surrounded by some of the more vibrant and diverse neighborhoods in the city.
No matter where you try to build permanent supportive housing, you face some problem. In the northern half of Dallas, land is expensive, unused sites zoned for multifamily housing are scarce, and the mass transit needed by people who usually don’t have cars is limited. In the southern half of the city good neighborhoods are fewer and more fragile.
All of Dallas has one thing in common. Everyone thinks permanent supportive housing is a good idea—in somebody else’s neighborhood.

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