The new City of Dallas director of housing and neighborhood revitalization, David Noguera, has jumped in with both feet — and seems to have a good handle on what he’s up against. The Greater Dallas Planning Council invited him to address to a group of dedicated local professionals last Thursday, and he made quite an impression.
If anyone can straighten out the housing situation in Dallas, it’s Noguera. He has the experience and the credentials we need.
Noguera knows HUD well. He oversaw the development of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and managed it at a national level for six years. He also developed an audit resolution division for HUD’s Office of Community Planning and Development, where he negotiated settlements on Office of Inspector General audits of states, local governments, and non-profits. Prior to HUD, David analyzed housing policy for Freddie Mac, evaluated federally funded programs for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and non-profit investments for the New York Empowerment Zone.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in International Development and a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University.
From his perspective, Dallas is perfectly suited for his work.
Yes, Dallas has housing problems but Noguera sees opportunity here: Dallas has the money to solve them and the leadership that understands the value of building a foundation for lasting changes.
Right now Noguera manages 400-plus staff that address housing issues as well as community services, homelessness, human services, and animal control (yes, the stray dogs in Southern Dallas is his domain.) The housing division includes development, home repair, and financing.
He’s facing some significant departmental challenges, starting with improving communication between staff on a regular basis, not just when there’s a problem.
A major focus for Noguera is beefing up the protocol and systems to enable the department to deliver on its services. For example, the city allocates $4.5 million annually to home repairs. In 2015 the program was able to utilize only $3 million. Leftover funds carry over to the next year, and have been carrying over for a few years now. So this year the program has about $9 million total to be spent on rehabilitations.
Growing staff capacity has become a top priority.
Additionally, when homeowners apply for home repair assistance, a lien is placed on the home – the loan is forgivable if the terms of the loan are met by the homeowner. Today there are over 26,000 liens of backlog ready to be released, and staff are only able to complete around 400 per year. That’s just over 1 percent. Noguera has begun working with SMU professors to engage young law students to help catch up, while working to develop staff processes to release the liens in a more timely manner.
While dealing with these very real capacity issues, the city continues to have more complex housing needs that demand Noguera’s attention.
Yes, he’s addressing the fair housing lawsuit. He mentioned looking into the potential for voluntary inclusionary zoning and the thresholds for affordable units.
He even spoke to the cultural stigmas of affordable housing, recognizing that “It starts with education. But we need some rebranding.”
And staff are beginning to take a comprehensive approach to meeting the city’s housing needs. Using data to drive their decisions on where to focus the repair funds, they’re working with consultants from TRA and Dallas community representatives to analyze neighborhoods throughout the city. The market value analysis (MVA) process uses 16 metrics to identify tipping point neighborhoods where they’ll have the greatest impact. He’s also working to coordinate better with code enforcement to target areas with the greatest need.
“We’re looking at infrastructure, sustainability, planning, regional growth – and housing isn’t explicitly included. We need to be looking at how infrastructure and housing needs match up.” He especially emphasized transit connectivity of housing, more mixed-use housing, condos, and townhomes, and diverse neighborhoods. “It’s important to be able to age in place and continue having the services you want – and you need a certain population density to support those services.
“There are so many aspects to housing that we need to address, for both current residents and new residents – whether hurricane evacuees, new employees, or new residents seeking opportunity.” said Noguera, “To maintain this boom we need to accommodate demands. You have prices, then you have preferences. We need a diversity of housing options. Housing is part of business attraction and retention.”
Sounds like he has a good grasp of what’s going on here, the challenges, and the opportunities. And potentially, the experience to pull together solid solutions. He’’s seeking stakeholder input and working to empower partners to do more– there’s a mountain of work to whittle down.