Gentrification looms like an unsightly landmark in cities from Dallas to Austin to Houston and elsewhere in the nation. By either definition or intent, gentrification often triggers a struggle to balance the needs of current residents with the desire of developers, municipalities and corporations.
While new, affluent residents and visitors rave about must-visit restaurants, artsy boutiques, upscale housing and dog parks, many low-income residents who already call the neighborhood home can’t assume they’ll benefit from the burst of growth and amenities.
Current homeowners can anticipate that they may struggle to keep their homes, and renters can brace themselves for the possibility of exploding rents or the demolition of their apartment complexes if developers decide to raze older, existing buildings so they can construct upscale townhouses and condos with features home buyers covet.
Over time, the trendy replacement overshadows remnants of the old neighborhood, which seems quaint with the grittier signs of urban life tamed and painted. It’s a familiar pattern. At Dallas Leadership Foundation, we know from the 11 neighborhoods we serve that gentrification and the issues surrounding the phenomenon is something Dallas-area churches can’t ignore.
State Rep. Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) and Dallas City Council member Scott Griggs last week co-authored an op-ed about House Bill 2480, a bill that addresses gentrification and could help longtime residents in gentrifying areas like West Dallas, one of the city’s hottest areas for redevelopment. Johnson also was featured in an NBC 5 story about the bill, which, if passed, could go into effect in September.
Fresh, comprehensive ideas are needed as the city’s challenges keep compounding. Earlier this month, D Magazine reported that Dallas ranked among the nation’s worst when it came to offering affordable housing. D Magazine cites a National Low Income Housing Coalition report that says only 19 low-income housing units are available locally for every 100 renters. Exacerbating the problem is that Dallas has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation and is car-dependent in many areas. Transportation expenses add more financial pressure on families who already pay steep housing costs on a tight family budget.
Gentrification and sustained investments in existing neighborhoods for current residents are issues that congregations can’t hope away. Why? Ministry happens first on the streets before it occurs in sanctuaries, and hands-on, let’s-make-it-happen ministry is needed in Dallas’ neighborhoods. For instance, lending a hand to small neighborhood associations painting houses, improving streets and picking up litter can be an incalculable gift to a community. Supporting small congregations that stretch every day to help their neighborhoods benefit enormously from philanthropic-minded people who provide resources small churches can’t access.
That’s why Dallas Leadership Foundation and six core churches launched Transform Dallas, a citywide workday. We believe Christians can lead by serving when they tackle citywide challenges like gentrifying neighborhoods and provide solutions. Our hope is that churches throughout Dallas view these challenges as divine opportunities to demonstrate that Jesus cares about the heavenly destination of human beings as well as living conditions in their neighborhoods here on earth.
To learn more about Transform Dallas and opportunities to volunteer or donate for this event on Saturday, April 8, visit dlftx.org/transformdallas.
Published on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 @ 1:33 PM CDT