Photo courtesy Flickr/Arul Irudayam

Thanks to a new interactive tool, we now know what opportunity looks like in all areas of Dallas. And that tool confirms what many who follow income disparity have known all along — it frequently is manifest most in geography, where decades of policy have wrought pockets of opportunity gaps throughout the city.

The Opportunity Atlas is the result of work done by economist Raj Chetty, his Harvard colleagues, and Census Bureau’s Sonya Porter and Maggie Jones. It uses tax and U.S. Census data to track people’s incomes from one generation to the next.

What it found is that opportunity and income go hand-in-hand, and that in most if not all areas, blocks and neighborhoods don’t magically and suddenly become low income and low opportunity hot spots — they’ve been that way for years.

And more discouraging, children who grew up in those neighborhoods frequently reach adulthood and have families of their own, and make the same low wages their parents did.

“We’re excited that the Census Bureau can provide the public with access to social mobility estimates for the first time through the Opportunity Atlas,” said Ron Jarmin, Deputy Director, and Performing the Non-Exclusive Functions and Duties of the Director of the Census Bureau. “The Atlas has great social significance because no one has ever had access to social mobility estimates at such a granular level.”

The Opportunity Atlas measured average outcomes of Americans by the neighborhood they grew up in. A sample of almost 21 million Americans born between 1978 and 1983 were tacked back to the neighborhoods they were born and raised in, and then income tax returns and census data were used to measure annual earnings.

As part of my research, I looked at the census tracts around three Dallas ISD schools that currently or have had the Improvement Required designation from the Texas Education Agency, meaning that they did not meet state standards. (more…)

If it’s Red, full steam ahead; if it’s Yellow, say “hello;” if it’s Blue, you might’ve missed your queue.

Last week, Seth Fowler wrote about a client of his looking for a home in the sub-$200,000 market close to his job in Bedford.  “Ted” had been on a roller coaster of 43 showings and 11 contract offers … still without a home eight months on and counting. In today’s Dallas, it’s a story that’s been accelerating since the housing market began recovering in 2013. While slacking in the upper end of the market, the entry level remains full steam ahead.

Also last week, Alex Macon posted on D Magazine’s Frontburner about the legacy of redlining and a new set of charts overlaying 1930s redline maps against the current racial makeup of Dallas (U.S. Census data).  It’s clear that the 30-year pox of redlining, from the 1930s until 1968, still infects the Dallas landscape (as it does nationwide in many previously redlined areas).

But what’s the reality? I’m going to find out.

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After someone sent me a story about the mindset behind a certain email circulating regarding Highland Park ISD’s bond election, you know what stuck out to me?

Besides the fact that it felt like a prop from recent HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which unspooled the whole mess Yonkers, N.Y., found itself in regarding affordable housing, the other thing was this: There was absolutely no attempt to show any work regarding assertions. No aspersions cast on the writer of the story — he’s just quoting a guy. My beef is with the lack of solid bonafides behind the claims.  I used to have this editor that got all kinds of twitchy and irritable when (even in an op-ed) you didn’t at least attempt to give some sourcing for your assertions. “SHOW YOUR WORK,” he’d bellow.

So instead of picking apart the arguments in that email (and the quotes in that story) based on my ideological differences with the claims, I decided to approach things with an open mind and actually look at real studies done on affordable housing and crime. I mean, what if the guy was right? Or, what if he was quite wrong? Don’t you think it deserves a little look-see, at least, to see what we can find from reputable sources?

The area highlighted in red roughly shows where Highland Park ISD serves Dallas addresses.

The area highlighted in red roughly shows where Highland Park ISD serves Dallas addresses.

First off, let’s unpack where this particular brand of NIMBY likely came from. If I had to guess, it probably dates as far back as the 1930s, when the presence of low-income families meant the difference between no ability to get a home loan (areas that had predominantly black families and low-income families were redlined), or even as much of a difference as 80 percent financed/20 percent down (for an area with no low-income families and solely white) or 15 percent financed and 85 percent down (in an area where there was a racial mix and a lot of low-income families). The appearance of low-income or non-white ethnicities in your neighborhood during this time was a harbinger of plummeting property values and hardship.

But what about now? Is that true?

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HH Aerial Preston Center

I read Candy’s post on low income housing…and I penned the following note.  In her openness to explore differing opinions, Candy suggested it would make a good counter-balance post. And she reminded me that the Dallas Morning News had an editorial Sunday about how southern Dallas housing is booming–

Two of the city’s three hottest residential real estate markets are south of the Trinity River, a trend that real estate experts say bodes well for efforts to stabilize and revitalize southern Dallas neighborhoods. In the first six months of this year, home prices in the Oak Cliff sector soared 30 percent from 2014 levels. Prices in the southern Dallas sector — roughly between Loop 12 and Interstate 20 — increased a hefty 21 percent.

Only one sector north of the Trinity saw similar increases: North Dallas climbed 22 percent.

The southern sector, of course, is where more affordable Dallas housing has been located. But yeah — 

As values increase, “there is an incentive to own property,” says Ted Wilson, principal at Dallas-based Residential Strategies, a real estate research and consulting firm. “To see values go up, there is good for the city and those communities.”

But not so good for poor people.

Candy,

Liberal that I am, I have to say Schutze, reading through his smart-assery, is correct.

Busing poor kids into wealthier areas doesn’t have the impact of changing a child’s ultimate trajectory because the remaining 16-hours of their day are spent in less-than-ideal and potentially unsafe conditions.  There are numerous studies that show that placing entire families in modestly wealthier areas pays off.  It’s most critical for the youngest children because the same studies show that while a change at any age helps, the effect is diminished as children age. This isn’t surprising as very young children learn a variety of things, both positive and negative, that they carry for the rest of their lives. (more…)

Courtesy Kirwan Institute This 1937 Home Owners' Loan Corp. map of Dallas (laid over a current map for reference) shows who could get a loan, and who couldn't.

Courtesy Kirwan Institute
This 1937 Home Owners’ Loan Corp. map of Dallas shows who could get a loan, and who couldn’t.

If the lending practices of the 1940s were still in place, would you have been able to get the mortgage you currently have? In some neighborhoods in Dallas, you’d be fairly confident in saying yes. But in others, the answer might surprise you.

A week ago, I was able to attend a workshop hosted by Children’s Medical Center and Ohio State’s Kirwan Institute about (in part) lending practices in the post-Depression era. Many of these practices openly continued until 1968, when they were forbidden by law. But they continue to shape and affect some neighborhoods even today.

But first, some history on home ownership prior to the Depression. Prior to the FDR era, home finance was not the standard 80/20 30-year mortgage we are all familiar with. Home ownership tended to be for the wealthy, or those who could afford variable rates, very high down payments and short terms. Many renegotiated their mortgage every year. Many also were faced with a large balloon payment at the end of the loan.

Partly in a bid to create steady work for construction sector and partly to address pressure placed on the housing market by banks reselling foreclosures (nearly 10 percent of all homes were in foreclosure at the height of the Depression and around 250,000 homes per year were foreclosed upon between 1931 and 1935), the federal government stepped in to modify the business of financing a home.

One of the results of that intervention was the Home Owners Refinancing Act of 1933, which created the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, or HOLC. The HOLC raised funds through government-backed bonds, purchased the defaulted mortgages and then reinstated them. The agency also changed the terms for mortgages entirely, creating the mortgage as we know it now – fully amortized mortgages that were fixed rate and long term. (more…)